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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I just finished Tactical Response's 2-day Fighting Pistol class and their 2-day Advanced Fighting Pistol class. I'll post reviews here.

Okay, here goes the AAR:

When I walked into the classroom at CLETC and saw Yeager I wondered what kind of teacher he'd be. After all, this was the guy who proudly set his karma title to read "I'm not an *******, I'm a dick." I guess that the people who walk away from meeting Yeager thinking that he is a dick have very thin skin. Yeager might call you a *******, but only if you're being a *******. We started off day one by introducing ourselves to the instructors, James and Steve and them introducing themselves to us. After getting our course handouts James began with a lecture that covered everything from emergency planning, firearm safety, course objectives, survival principles, range commands, marksmanship fundamentals, grip, draw, re-holstering, and assorted gun manipulations.

Just a side note on the course handout: if you are planning on taking Fighting Pistol (and you should be) then remember to keep track of this handout. It is full of good info that you will want to revisit after the class if you are a serious student of pistolcraft and gunfighting. I took Fighting Pistol back in 2008 and managed to lose my course handout somewhere along the way. I have repeatedly wished that I could have that handout ever since. Keep your handout!

Anyway, back to the lecture: I think I have minor ADD or something since I always seem to zone out when I'm listening to a speech or lecture. Even, or maybe especially, when the lecture is about a subject that I care about. I did not have this problem with James. He is articulate and has a real talent for explaining things so that you'll get it the first time around. He is also very quick to use humor and is capable of bringing out the laughs at unexpected times.

As I said, I've taken Fighting Pistol before but that was three years ago. Tactical Response is not a school that allows it's curriculum to stagnate nor are they afraid to mix things up a bit to see what makes for a better learning experience. Some drills that we'd done in '08 were excluded this time around (some of those we wound up doing in Advanced Fighting Pistol) and some were gone altogether. One thing that was different this time around (if memory serves) is a greater emphasis on support hand only drills. Many of these (like type 3 malf clearances) truly suck to do and so, in general, we don't. I'm glad that Tactical Response made us do these drills that, by and large, we are too lazy to do on our own.

Another difference was a short lecture on winning the legal and emotional fights that always come after the first fight. This is another "boring" subject that we don't devote enough time to. To me this is an intimidating subject to think about but one that I am probably intimidated by because I don't think about how to deal with it enough. Other topics were covered from living wills to de-escalation to the legal requirements for using deadly force.

After class we went out for dinner in Sturgis at one of the new restaurants there. I think that if you're planning on going to a class that you should make a point of going out for dinner with your instructors and fellow students. The combined knowledge and experience of all of those people is a very worthwhile learning experience in it's own right and it has also been my experience that regardless of what we choose to discuss that I always have a great time hanging out with "my kind of people". As we were getting ready to leave Peter announced that he had already paid for everyone's meal. I wish you would have told me that you were going to do that Peter; I would have ordered something more expensive! ;) Seriously though, thanks so much for all of your generosity and for helping to make this whole class experience even better than I'd imagined!

At the end of the first day we were given a homework assignment: ten minutes of dry practice and several pages of reading in the course handout. Since Chris, Brian, Andrew, and I were all staying together we were able to work on the dry practice together and to discuss the topics that we read about in the handout. It's always good to have someone to bounce ideas off of; bring a friend to Fighting Pistol!

Day two started with another excellent lecture by James, this time centered on Warrior Mindset. This is the aspect of the class that puts "Fighting" in Fighting Pistol. This is the part of the class that forces you to either "get your head right" or admit that shooting is just your hobby and not truly a way of defending yourself. The latter is okay to admit and, in fact, it's probably better for someone to realize ahead of time that they are not Fighters or Warriors than to find that out when they're looking down the barrel of a bad guy's gun for the first time. This lecture doesn't only apply to fighting though. It permeates your entire way of thinking about everything in life. It has taught me to choose my battles in life and to win those battles unconditionally.

After lunch we got back on the range for some shooting and moving drills. While I seem to remember a little less moving in the '08 class, I think that there might have been a slightly greater emphasis on keeping one's feet moving during "stationary" drills when there was no shooting going on. The hollers of "Move your ******* feet!" from Aaron and Kyle still ring in my ears after three years. If I could offer a suggestion it would be to yell more at stationary or slowly moving students; some of us are slow learners and need to have something yelled at us repeatedly before we get the point. :ermey: The shooting on the move have become far more natural for me since I first tried it in '08. Being told that the best way to move and shoot is to walk/move as naturally as possible while putting rounds on target sounds too simple to be true but I guess it is. All the fancy tactical Groucho walking that I tried in the past was really a waste of time. I've been practicing walking all my life so why should I try to learn a new way to do it?

After the last shots were fired James debriefed the class and dismissed us for the day. All but two of the students would return for Advanced Fighting Pistol the next day. We went out for dinner again and spent that time learning almost as much from each other as we had in class. A great end to a great day!

Lessons learned:

- At one point James looked at my target and told me that if I was shooting that good then I was sandbagging. I decided to speed up and found that I was able to get almost as good hits at close range with a flash sight picture and the most rapid trigger pull that I could muster. I attribute this to the thumbs-forward grip that Tactical Response teaches (this greatly controls recoil/muzzle flip) and good marksmanship fundamentals.

- During a left hand only type 3 drill I managed to tap the (partially depleted) mag hard enough to make two rounds shift 90° inside of the magazine! Imagine my shock and confusion when my left-handed type 3 drill not only failed to clear the problem but also also left me to glance into the ejection port of my pistol and see two headstamps side by side! :runaway: If you're going to wail on something really hard with the butt of your partially-empty pistol then you need to recognize that there is the possibility of this type of malfunction occurring.

- I am a firm believer that only perfect practice makes perfect and so I try to make my sight alignment and trigger press as perfect as possible when I dry fire or go to the range. The less-than-perfect sight alignment that I was getting at close range still allowed for very good hits at statistically typical gunfight ranges. Making very good hits immediately is better than making perfect hits in a few seconds in a fight.

- I had never before seen the technique to clear a cover garment with both hands before drawing. This is very helpful with many of the shirts and other cover garments that I wear.

- I need a living will.

- There are three more Ts in "FASTTTT" than I remember being told about in '08. Take cover, Treat injuries, & Talk.

- "Shoot only to save a life, never to take one, and there will be no regrets."

I would also like to add that this class was a very different experience from the first time I took it in '08 due to the different teaching styles of the different instructors. Getting told the same things in a different way helps you to learn lessons that you might have missed before.

Thanks to James, Steve, and all of my fellow classmates for making this a kick-ass experience!

5 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Advanced Fighting Pistol:

This was a new class for me. In the two days before Advanced Fighting Pistol I had taken Fighting Pistol for the second time but this was my first Advanced Fighting Pistol experience.

The first day started out on the range with no classroom time before hand. We got right into shooting from some awkward positions. We'd done fighting to our feet from supine in Fighting Pistol but now we got to try the same exercises with the target oriented somewhere besides right in front of our feet. I don't think I'd ever shot at a target with my head upside-down while lying on my back before!

I had taken Fighting Pistol back in 2008 and back then drawing from a dominant-side holster with the support hand was part of the curriculum. It seems that Tactical Response has decided to move this technique to the Advanced class. After making sure we could do this safely and correctly we expanded on the whole theme of losing use of an arm in a fight by doing plenty of shooting with both right- and left-hand shooting, a theme that continued throughout the rest of the class. Students were expected to fight through all one-handed drills with only one hand. If you shot with, say, your left hand only then any reloads or malfunction clearing was to be done with only the left hand. Andrew (aka: Magnum) seemed to always want to get both his hands involved in some way in a one-handed drill. This brought about another Yeagerism: "Stop using your other hand! I've never had to restrain a male student before and I don't want to start now." :bow:

Precision was expected regardless of what hand was being used. Students that had problems with their eyes had to find what worked for them to get their hits. I try to do a fair amount of practice left-handed and one-handed and I didn't feel like I had to fight to make my hits. I certainly couldn't shoot as fast with only one hand but that shouldn't surprise anyone I don't think.

At the start of the day I saw a pair of boxing gloves being taken out of Yeager's truck. I had the sinking feeling that those gloves were going to be used on us and I was correct. I made the mistake of standing on the far right end of the firing line so Yeager selected me to go first and got to see what he could do to make my life miserable for a minute or so before he was tired out from doing the same to other students. The drill was to shoot a mag at your target and then perform a reload while being attacked from behind with grabs and blows. I managed to get my spare mag knocked out of my hand while trying to reload and had to recover it from the ground while getting pummeled. Repeated smacks to my arm kept me from seating the mag into the gun until I finally got it on what seemed like the 100th time. This drill really made me see the hazards of being "gun focused" in a hand-to-hand melee. I've got to say though, that I've never had more fun while getting punched! Perhaps the only thing more fun was watching my fellow students getting the same treatment. Next time video!

Another drill that really got me thinking was a similar drill where students were choked out from behind while trying to empty a mag into their target. I made a point of shooting as fast as I could to see if I could get to slide lock before passing out. As it turned out I did and didn't actually black out at all. Still very easy to see how easy it would be to panic in a situation where you are being attacked and can't even breathe. A similar drill was conducted with the instructor pinning the student's arms to his body, forcing him to point shoot from waist level. Not too difficult at all but something that needs to be practiced all the same.

Now what to do about all of these attacks from behind at close range? Well, there's a trick for that too. Just point your pistol under your support-side armpit while covering the back of your head and neck with the support hand (just like retention position) and shoot him off your back. Well, for whatever reason I would have failures to feed when in this position. I tried with both hands and with two guns and got the same result. I had Yeager watch me while I did these drills and he couldn't see anything that I was doing wrong so we hypothesized that I was somehow not correctly supporting the frame of the pistol when holding it that way. What I'm going to take away from this is that if I do need to shoot someone off my back then I've got only one shot (well, two if I'm carrying my BUG) so I'd best make it count. I'm going to practice this drill more to see if I can get the correct technique down.

After class Peter announced that his lovely wife, Elaine, had made us all dinner down at the CLETC pro shop! Another great day of training capped off with another great evening of hanging out with my fellow classmates. The only way that that could be better? With fresh salad and home-made pulled pork. I made sure to go back for seconds and would have eaten even more if there'd been any left! Thanks Elaine, that was the best meal I've eaten in a long time!

Day two started out in the classroom again. James delivered another very informative lecture on vehicle, home defense, low-light, and medical issues. While there was not a low-light range component to this class I think that I have a lot to think about now just after this lecture. I took quite a bit of notes and was writing pretty much non-stop the whole time. James seems to be able to pack a lot of info into a lecture so bring your pens and pencils and some paper to his classes!

The first aid lecture was also very worthwhile. After the Tucson shootings I put myself in the shoes of that CCW guy who got on the scene a few seconds after the shooter had been subdued. I put myself in that guy's shoes and wondered what I could have done. With the shooter already subdued and disarmed there would be no way for me to use all of my expensive firearms training to save lives. So what could I have done? I could have stood around and watched people bleed to death. Since then I have been trying to get to an Immediate Action Medical class but haven't done so yet. I think that with the knowledge that I got from even this short lecture that I could do a much better job of helping an injured person than before but I know that there is so much more that I still have to learn. There is talk of bringing Tactical Response back to CLETC to teach this class and if that is true then I will certainly be there!

Back on the range we did another drill that had been in Fighting Pistol the last time I'd taken it but, apparently was now in the Advanced class: the Allen Dot drill. James explained to me that the student who would take Fighting Pistol but not Advanced Fighting Pistol was typically not a student who appreciated the Allen Dots. If you don't know, the Allen Dots are about 1.5" in diameter and are shot from the 5 yard line. If you "make" the gun shoot instead of "letting" the gun shoot then you will probably miss an Allen Dot. It takes a lot of concentration to make your hits on a target this small, time and time again!

Some other pure marksmanship drills were covered. If you've watched Shooting Missology then you've probably seen some of these: holding the gun in the left hand and pressing the trigger with the right index finger (then doing it again with the finger inserted all the way up to the knuckle in the trigger guard), holding the gun upside-down and shooting with an inverted sight picture, bending over and shooting between your legs, the list goes on. What is the point of all of this "trick shooting"? To show that very good hits can be made as long as you line up the sights correctly and press the trigger correctly. You need not worry about stance, grip, what part of your trigger finger rests on the trigger, etc as long as you can get proper sight alignment and trigger press.

On the subject of the sight alignment, another drill involved us deliberately getting the front sight "too high", "too low", and "too far to the sides" in the rear notch. Guess what? At typical combat distances you can still hit someone where they need to be hit with those sight pictures. That type of sight alignment is not what a shooter should strive for but nor is it something that he should get too wrapped around the axle about either.

There were several movement drills that involved keeping one's feet moving while shooting with both hands and then one hand only, each hand (including gun manipulations). These drills forced the shooter to divide his attention between not crashing into obstacles while moving and making good hits on the move as well. The shooting fundamentals that had been pounded into our heads all day made concentrating on the front sight easy for me and I got most of my hits in the heart box of the target.

After learning of the danger the day before of focusing on the gun too much when a hand-to-hand fight is happening, we brought out a punching bag. There is an old saying: "How long 'one minute' is depends on what side of the bathroom door you're standing". Well, we were going to find out how long thirty seconds lasted. The heavy bag was placed on the ground in front of a target on the firing line and, one by one, students would straddle the bag and rain blows down on the bag for thirty seconds. Open-hand palm strikes were stipulated over closed-fist punching as the latter can more easily result in a hand injury. Elbow strikes were also allowed and I decided that that is what I would use due to the devastating damage that they can do. After thirty seconds the student was to draw his pistol and engage the target in front of him with an entire magazine and then jump up and reload.

There is an aspect of this drill that I wanted to also talk about because it relates to a couple of interesting experiences for me. While one student was actually striking the bag all of the other students plus the instructors were to yell encouragement to the student. James explained that this was because the voices of your teachers can come back to you under a stressful encounter and you want those voices to be helping you. If the student was tiring then we would yell at him to hit harder and not give up. If the student seemed to not be giving 100% then we would yell to stop rabbit punching and to hurt that son of a bitch! Now there's two reasons that I found this aspect interesting: firstly, I have never been in a lethal encounter before but there was a dream that I had where I was in some horrific-looking place (if Doom 2 had had better graphics it would have looked like this) and I was being attacked by some massive demon-like beast. I drew my 1911 (that's what I carried at the time) and shot it until it jammed. I went to fix it and, as I had the tendency to do then, I looked down at what I was doing. In the middle of this weird dream I could hear Tactical Response instructor Kyle Lynch (who was one of my instructors at Fighting Pistol in 2008) yelling clear as a bell: "Shawn, keep your ******* head up!" Again this was only a dream but that voice was unmistakable and in that dream I managed to fix a type 3 malf while keeping my eyes on the threat!

The other aspect that was interesting is that I experienced auditory exclusion. I decided that I was going to make an impression on that heavy bag and for 30 seconds I landed as many of the hardest elbow strikes that I could muster on it. In retrospect I can recall that there was yelling in the background but at the time it was just me and that heavy bag. I had heard of people experiencing auditory exclusion in gunfights and even while hunting but this was the first time that it had happened to me.

We did more work with the heavy bag afterwards that was less physically intense. One drill involved straddling the bag in the same manner as before but then shooting it about 5 or 6 times from retention and then emptying the mag into the bad guy's friends (paper targets). After this we went on to pistol whip the heavy bag for a few blows until a cease fire was called. We also did some experimentation with contact shots on the heavy bag. Pushing the muzzle against the target will push the slide out of battery and not let you fire so the shooter must press the slide shut from the rear to get it into firing condition. Another neat thing we learned was that Hollywood actually wasn't making up the whole pillow-as-a-suppressor thing. After a sufficiently large hole was blasted in the heavy bag the muzzle of the pistol could be inserted and a round could be fired comfortably without ear protection! Not sure that that will ever come in handy but it was still a neat thing to learn.

There was a practical medical aspect too. We were shown how to put a tourniquet and an H-bandage on ourselves, not another patient. If you are badly wounded in a gunfight then you cannot count on someone else to help you. You need to be your own medic until someone else can take over. After doing a practice tourniquetting (Is that a word? It is now!) and H-bandaging we did a drill where we had to shoot our guns dry at an attacker, put on a tourniquet, THEN reload (you have about 70 seconds before you bleed to unconsciousness from arterial bleeding), then shoot off another mag, then apply an H-bandage, THEN reload. If the tourniquet doesn't hurt then you're doing it wrong. I really should start carrying a TK4 and an H-bandage around. I'm around guns and shooting all the time and that means that I could one day have to deal with a gunshot wound. Even if I'm never around someone who's been shot, those medical items could be life-saving in a number of other instances.

We finished with a drill that involved moving safely around people with a gun in your hand. The idea that we should not "break 180" when training for a fight is stupid. Shooting ranges are the only 180°, bystander-free part of the world. If you're not training to win a gunfight on the firing line of a shooting range then you shouldn't train that way! If you might have to move around others with a gun in your hand then don't make the first time you have to do the first time that you ever do it! Train like you'll fight! This drill was done in a totally safe manner and I never felt nervous the entire time. I'd been shooting with these guys for four days straight and I knew that they could put their rounds where they needed to go. This drill also demonstrated the utility of the muzzle up movement position. It prevented the muzzle from pointing at anyone's legs or toes, including the guy holding the gun. Sometimes muzzle up is the right way to go and sometimes it's muzzle down. Yet another thing that isn't worth getting into a debate over. Pick which one works and use it.

There is a reason that Tactical Response's Alumni avatar includes Rodin's Thinker: there is a lot of stuff to be thinking about after the class ends and I am still rolling things around in my mind. I think that if Tactical Response were to rename some of their classes they could call Fighting Pistol "If you carry a gun you NEED this class" and they could call Advanced Fighting Pistol "Psst, hey Warrior, wanna see how ****** up things could really get for you one day? Also wanna see how to prevail when those situations arise? Then take this class". Too wordy? Perhaps but I think that that gets the point across. I guess that you could say that Fighting Pistol is a Mindset class and the Advanced Fighting Pistol is a tactics class for those who already have a fighting mindset.

I was very impressed to see that Tactical Response's curriculum has evolved over the last three years. The Fight and Immediate Action Medical are very high on my list of classes to take and hopefully that will happen soon. Way Of The Pistol seems like it would be worth taking too but that will have to wait I think.

To everyone at CLETC: it was a real pleasure meeting all of you and shooting with all of you. I know that I will be doing more training at your awesome facility in the future. Everyone else should go to Cor-Bon's website and check it out online.

To James and Steve: thanks a ton for letting me know what I didn't know and for providing a bad-ass learning experience. See you next time you come up here or maybe even next time I come to Camden!

To Rebecca & Elaine: thanks for taking all the sweet photos! I look forward to seeing more.

To my fellow classmates: post your AARs, *******! :whip:
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