Thursday, May 28, 2009

John Farnam's Instructor Class

When I took John Farnam's Urban Rifle class last February, most of the students in the class had just finished taking his instructor course the previous two days. What I heard from those students and the reviews of the course I read on the Tactical Response forums, spurred me to register for the instructor course on May 15-17 in Rochester, Indiana. This course is a bit different from the one John taught in February, however. In the past, the instructor course has been a two day affair, focusing on pistol skills. This was a three day class, covering pistol, revolver, rifle, and shotgun.

This being a four gun class, I brought four different firearms: a Glock 21, a Smith and Wesson 442, a Robinson Armament XCR, and a Remington 870.

The Glock 21 is my everyday carry gun. Except for a set of Trijicon night sights it's completely stock.

For the revolver portion of the class, and as a backup gun, I brought my new Smith and Wesson 442. This is a new gun for me, I only had a chance to shoot it once before the class. The only addition to this gun was a set of Crimson Trace lasergrips. I brought some Safariland speedloaders and a few Bianchi speed strips for reloading. As a BUG, I carry it in a FIST kydex pocket holster. It's not soft, but it is nice and thin, much less bulky than the nylon ones I tried. For the revolver portion of the class I used a Fobus belt holster and an Uncle Mike's nylon carrier for the speedloaders.

I've made a couple of tweaks to my XCR since the Urban Rifle class. It still has the Aimpoint Micro on the LaRue mount. I swapped the big, bulky vertical foregrip for a short, stubby one from LaRue, and I really like the way it handles. I switched the sling from a Vickers to an S.O.E. two point bungee and moved the rear mount from the back of the stock to the back of the reciever, using a Blue Force Gear universal wire loop sling adapter. This makes shoulder transitions much easier. As with the rifle class, I carried spare (and expended) mags in my Sneakybag.

Like the S&W, my 870 is a new gun for me. I wanted to keep additions to a minimum, both in terms of cost, and the amount of junk hanging on the rifle: sling, flashlight, and night sight. I really liked the way the back of the receiver mount worked for my XCR, so I put on a Midwest Industries makes a sling mount adapter plate that fits between the receiver and the stock. A GG&G adapter that attaches between the magazine tube an the extension provided the front mount, and I used the Vickers sling that I took off my rifle. The standard for shotguns seems to be the Surefire forend light, but it costs almost as much as the shotgun did and I don't particularly like pressure pads for lights. Brownells sells a nice mount that clamps to the magazine tube extension and I used it to mount my old Surefire 6P. I put an XS Sights 24/7 Big Dot over the front bead both as a night sight, and to increase visibility during the day. I brought my old Hawkepack rifle bug out bag (which hasn't seen much rifle use since I got my Sneakybag) and velcroed three cheap 7 round shotgun shell holders inside the main pouch (two for buckshot, one for slugs).

Friday Morning
The class kicked off on Friday morning. It was held at the Sand Burr Gun Ranch. They've got five ranges and a big tin shed that provided classroom space. This was a really nice place to hold the class.

As usual, John kicked off the class with a round of introductions. Everyone had taken courses from John before, so he didn't spend much time talking about himself. Most of the class had met his wife and fellow instructor Vicki before, but I had not. In addition to John and Vicki, we had quite a group of previous graduates of the instructor course to assist him, including Frank Sharpe, who I knew from the rifle class, Steve Camp, of Safe Direction, and another John, and another Steve (confused yet?). Dennis Reichard, the owner of the Sand Burr Gun Ranch, contributed with the revolver portion of the course. Don Johnson (no, not that Don Johnson) of DSArms came on Saturday, and gave a short lecture on the FN FAL on Sunday. I also need to mention Paula, one of Johns instructors who did double duty taking care of lunch, and ensuring a steady supply of water, gatorade, and salty snacks, as well as assisting Vicki with the ladies' basic pistol course on Saturday and Sunday.

We were also introduced to 'Mabel'. What to say about Mabel? Mabel is Vicki's 'alternate personality'. Whenever a student explaining a concept or drill was unclear, skipped over things, left out something relevant, or used non-standard terminology, Mabel would pipe up with a question or ask for clarification. Some of this was tied into the concepts of her 'Teaching Women to Shoot' lecture on Saturday morning, but a lot was not gender specific. In a class of advanced students and instructors, Mabel was the representative of the beginning student who needs a clear, thorough explanation. Students lecturing the class learned to dread the distinctive wave of a hand that Mabel used to ask a question, but her contributions were really invaluable in terms of getting us to explain things clearly.

The class was quite large, sixteen students. Thanks to the large cadre of instructors, the student-instructor ratio was pretty good, but the class was still a bit unwieldy. The students came from quite a variety of backgrounds. Two were police officers, both of whom had training responsibility, and one taught courses for armed security guards, but the rest of the class were professionals in non-firearms related fields. There were two ladies in the class. The class also included Steve Camp's 17 year old son Nathan, who put some of the adults to shame both on the shooting range an in the instructional portions of the class.

The introductions at the beginning of John's classes also include each student describing the weapons they brought. While I was familiar with this, I didn't really understand the reason until this class. As John explained, if a student brought an unusual weapon that he wasn't all that familiar with (such as the Steyr one of the students brought to a pistol class the previous weekend), the introductions gave John a chance to take the student aside and get an explanation of how the gun works, so he could explain it to the rest of the students later in the class (always stay at least five minutes ahead of your students).

In this class, there was a clear majority preference in most categories of weapon. Glocks made up by far the majority of the pistols, mostly .40s and 9mms, with a few .45s. 1911s were the biggest minority, followed by one XD and one M&P each. Glocks dominated the back-up gun category too, though a couple of students each carried J-frames and Kel-Tecs. One student brought a Detonics (one of the classic ones from the 1970s, not one from the recent revival). Revolvers were dominated by Smith and Wesson, with one gun apiece from Taurus and Ruger. The S&Ws covered the complete range in size from J-frames to N-frames. The dominant rifle the AR, with many different manufacturers represented. One or two students brought AKs, FALs, Mini-14s, SIGs, M1As, M1 carbines, XCRs, and an Austrian AUG. Shotguns were pretty diverse. Remingtons were the most common (both 870s and 1187s), followed closely by Benelli. One Beretta and a pair of Mossbergs were on display, along with one Smith and Wesson pump shotgun (more on that one later).

Following the introductions, the rest of the morning was occupied by John's lecture on teaching techniques. This was filled with lots of practical advice about situations that will come up when we are teaching a class. How to deal with 'experts' who think they know more than you do, how to teach students like Mabel who need some additional explanation, how to deal with it when we say something that offends a student.

John also included a fair bit of pubic speaking advice. Some was fairly standard like eliminating "um"s and "ah"s and speaking in complete sentences. Some was more specific to teaching like using "we" and "us" instead of "you", "when" instead of "if" and "will" instead of "would", "should", or "could". One that caught a lot of students taking their turns as the instructor was, when a student asked a question, to either repeat it or make sure the whole class heard it. This makes the answer a learning point for the entire class, rather than just the student who asked. "What was the question?" practically became a running joke during the weekend.

Several students had opportunities to deliver short impromptu lectures on a certain subject (one of the four rules of gun safety, for example). There was an emphasis in brevity and clarity. As John put it, "Be focused, be sincere, be seated."

One thing that was emphasized throughout the class was to connect information with some sort of "emotional bookmark" to help students remember what you're trying to teach them. This can arise from something in class (an ND can be a powerful emotional bookmark for a point about gun safety), or it can involve using an anecdote to help drive home a point. Saying "you shouldn't do X" isn't anywhere near as powerful as saying, "This guy did X and it almost got him killed." This is something that John, drawing on both his own long experience and the experiences of his many students, does very well.
Friday Afternoon
After lunch, we got out on the range. We got some light rain, but nothing too serious. The drills in the afternoon didn't involve a huge amount of trigger time, but they did involve quite a bit of instructional time. As he usually does, John would explain a drill, then demonstrate it. Instead of shooting it immediately, 2-3 students would give the same explanation and demonstration (a bit of pressure with everyone watching, even with these fairly simple drills). The whole class then did each drill several times, while students gave the range commands. I didn't get a chance to explain any of the drills, but I did get a chance to give the range commands and got complemented on my volume (some of the students were barely audible down on the end of the line).

We shot the drills in two relays, with the non-shooting relay given the job of watching and coaching students. This, perhaps, wasn't quite the learning opportunity it should have been. Most of the students in the class were fairly good shooters and gunhandlers, meaning there weren't a lot of basic, easy to spot mistakes. A lot of the students, myself included, were kind of reluctant to correct fellow students.

The first drill we did was a dry fire drill. From the interview stance, on command start moving, move and draw, dry fire at the target, move and scan, and reholster. Constant movement and a good a visual scan, including looking behind you, were required.

For a few students, this was their first introduction to the close ready and deep ready (Position Sul) techniques. Close ready, in particular, is a fairly recent addition to John's classes. Rather than pivoting the gun downward to a low ready, the gun is brought back, just below the chin. It remains pointed downrange, but gets rotated to the left (for a right handed shooter) to relax the wrists. This puts the gun in a much more defensible position if someone tries to grab it. It also removes the tendency to overshoot when swinging the gun up from a low ready, since the gun is already pointed toward the threat you just drive it forward instead of swinging it. John teaches this as a ready position, and as a position for reloads and other manipulations. I really like the close ready position and I've made it a standard part of my repertoire since I first learned it in his class last fall.

Our first live fire drill was one of John's standards - the zipper drill. Like the previous dry drill, you start in the interview stance, seven yards from the target. You move and scan, then move and draw on command. At the fire command, you shoot a burst at the target, starting at the navel and moving up to the collarbone level. The target area is a strip about six inches wide running down the middle of the target. This covers most of the 'good parts' of the human anatomy, including the heart, lungs, and major blood vessels. For single stack pistols, the standard burst is three rounds, double stacks shoot four rounds. After firing the first burst move, fire a second burst, move and reload, then fire a third burst, then scan, reload, and reholster. Most autoloaders will hold at least two bursts, to reloading after two bursts if the opportunity arises keeps the gun topped off. All reloads involved retaining the magazine (even if empty). This is a post-Katrina modification that John and several other instructors have made to their curriculum.

When one of the students was explaining the zipper drill, Mabel asked by far the toughest question of the class. She said, "I don't want to think about shooting real people, I just want to shoot holes in paper targets so I can qualify and keep my job as a police officer." The student explaining the drill got this deer in the headlights look in his eyes and stood there in silence for about twenty seconds before John had mercy and stepped in. This is a tough question, and one that will come up when we are training people. We do our students a disservice is we don't force them to confront the idea of shooting an actual assailant. If the student is a police officer, we not only endanger them, we endanger their partner, and the public. The time for making that sort of moral choice is when you decide to carry a gun, not when someone is trying to kill you. This is a difficult subject, but one we must confront if we want to do a serious job of teaching self defense. Failing to confront this issue means failing our students.

Our second shooting drill of the day was the Mother-in-Law Drill. Basically, a criminal is holding a loved one hostage, and you have to make a very precise shot to stop the kidnapper without hitting the loved one in order to save them. The more conventional name for this would be the Hostage Drill or Brain Stem Drill, but John explained why it's called the Mother-in-Law drill. The name, and the attendant jokes ("What if we don't want to rescue her?") is actually a deliberate choice indented to limit the possible emotional reaction to this drill. Frank told the class that when he first started instructing, he was teaching one of his friends to shoot and told him to visualize his wife as a hostage. This disturbed Frank's friend so much that he completely missed the assailant and shot the hostage in the head. This, in turn, destroyed his confidence. It took Frank several weeks to talk his friend into coming back out to the range. The possibility of a similar reaction is why this is the Mother-in-Law drill, rather than the Wife drill or the Daughter drill. Frank's story is also an excellent example of an emotional bookmark, and it certainly made this point in a way I'll not soon forget.

This drill was originally part of John's advanced course, but John moved it to the basic course because of the survival statistics for kidnapped kids. A majority of children kidnapped by strangers are dead within a few hours, nearly all are killed within 24 hours. Being able to stop one of these kidnappings is a potentially critical skill, which is why John added it to the basic course.

The drill uses a standard cardboard target, with a face drawn on the target's head, representing the kidnapper, and another drawn on the target's shoulder, representing the hostage. The goal is to shoot the target in the nose, where a bullet can penetrate the skull without encountering heavy bone and hit the brain stem. Severing the brain stem instantaneously results in flaccid paralysis, preventing the kidnapper from harming the hostage even if the assailant has a gun to the hostages head or a knife to their throat. The target area is quite small, requiring a very precise shot. Even so, this isn't that hard on a stationary paper target. A real person, moving their head around, is a different story. Accordingly, John trains to ask "What do you want?" before making the shot. Asking this question and waiting about a second or two takes advantage of a human being's limited ability to multitask. While they think about a response, it will probably leave them stationary for a moment, and that's the window we need to make the shot.

After finishing up with the Mother-in-Law drill, we retired to a nice dinner at a local restaurant.

Saturday Morning
Most of the class met for breakfast at a local eatery Saturday morning. After we got to the range, Vicki gave an abbreviated version of her Teaching Women to Shoot course while John went down to one of the other ranges to give the Ladies class that was starting today his lecture on interacting with the criminal justice system.

I've read Vicki's Teaching Women to Shoot book, and the lecture covered a lot of the same ground in terms of physical and psychological differences that make teaching women different than teaching men. She actually teaches an entire class on the subject, we just got a compressed version. During the lecture, some students asked Vicki questions that were pretty transparently about their wives, rather than hypothetical shooting students. Vicki had to say, "I'm not doctor Laura" several times in an effort to keep the discussion on track.

After the lecture, Vicki took us out to the range for the practical portion of the lecture. The instructors attached sponges to the grips of our pistols to simulate the difficulties shooters with smaller hands face in operating pistols that are too large for them. She also had us hold our pistols at high ready for a few minutes before shooting, to simulate the difficulty someone with less upper body strength is going to have holding up one of these guns during extended shooting sessions. During the Teaching Women to Shoot class, she'll actually hang a bag with a couple boxes of ammo on the gun to simulate the heavier relative weight. When the time came to shoot, we had to fire a string of 8-10 shots in 5 seconds. Normally, this wouldn't be too difficult, but the oversized grips make it a challenge. I shot pretty well for my first string, so the solution was to make it more difficult for me. After moving some of the sponges around and doubling one over (effectively four layers of sponges on the gun), it was a real challenge. I definitely had to give up my normal grip and hold the gun from the side, rather than aligning it with my forearm. I found I wasn't giving up too much accuracy, but rate of fire definitely suffered. With this bad a grip, the gun has more muzzle flip and the signs don't return to the target the way they usually do. There was a lot more finding the front sight and maneuvering it onto the target than usual. Since the recoil was directed into the bone of my thumb, rather than the web of my hand, it also beat my thumb up a bit. We shot all our strings two-handed, but I'd really like to get some sponges and try it out shooting one-handed. I think it would be quite a challenge. I've been sensitive to the difficulties of a gun that's too large before, but doing this definitely reinforced the point.

Saturday Afternoon
After lunch, Dennis Reichard, owner of the Sand Burr Gun Ranch, gave us a lecture on revolvers. Dennis carried revolvers as a police officer and shot them competitively. He definitely knows his stuff when it comes to wheelguns. He gave some good advice about how to run a revolver, starting with the grip. He really emphasized the differences between a proper revolver grip and a semi-auto grip. On a semi-auto, I was taught to put the backstrap into the web of my hand and pretty much let my fingers fall where they may. With the revolver grip, he taught that placing the trigger on or just below the first joint of the trigger finger is the key. The position of the rest of the hand is based off of that finger position. With a semi, the support side hand is positioned by laying the thumb right underneath the strong side thumb. On a revolver, Dennis taught lining up the second knuckles of the fingers with the knuckles of the strong hand.

I've got big hands, and I'm shooting a fairly small revolver, so I've struggled a bit. In particular, I've had trouble with the tip of my trigger finger running into my thumbs on the left side of the weapon when I use a thumbs down revolver grip. When Dennis saw me struggling with this out on the range, he suggested wrapping the support side thumb around the back, behind the hammer (or where the hammer would be if my 442 had one). This is usually regarded as a bit old fashioned, even for a revolver technique, but I found it really helped clear space for my trigger finger. It still seems a bit unnatural to me, probably because I've shot semi-autos for so long and slide bite tends to quickly discourage wrapping the thumb around the back.

After Dennis' lecture, we went out to the range and shot for a bit. This was my first chance to shoot on the rotator targets. They're challenging. Doubly so since I was shooting a j-frame from about 8 yards, which is probably about three yards beyond my ability to reliably shoot a target the size of a rotator plate. John uses rotators are made by Safe Direction, so we had the manufacturer right there in the form of Steve Camp.

We started out with some drills involving hitting the upper and lower plates in a specific sequence. First we had to hit the upper plate twice, with the second shot coming before the rotator starts swinging back towards us. Subsequent drills added an additional shot on the bottom plate, then a fourth shot, back at the top plate again. As usual, students were called on to explain each exercise and demonstrate it for the class. Of course, I finally get called to explain and demonstrate a drill and it's while I'm shooting this snubbie that I'm still not used to. I made three of the four shots on the demo though, probably my best performance of the day with the j-frame.

We moved on to some drills trying to spin the rotator. While spinning the target was the goal, John also set an intermediate goal of getting it past horizontal after shooting 5 shots and reloading for those of us with j-frames. After working on rotating it alone (or trying to, with a j-frame) we did some work in pairs, with two people trying to spin it. Finally, we did the "Spoiler" drill, with two people trying to spin it and one in the middle trying to stop them. It was around this time that I ran out of .38 special ammo and switched back to my Glock.

John teamed us up in groups of four and we did some relay races. We had to run back around a stake and then shoot all four paddles on two rotators without missing. If you missed, you had to run again. Once one person hit all four in a row, the next person went, until everyone on the team had four hits. We did this two handed, strong hand only, and support hand only. The running doesn't make it much more difficult, but having everyone watching and your team depending on you definitely ramps up the pressure a bit. Interestingly, the most common missed shot was the third. One of the instructors explained that this was because the third shot is the one you get into a rhythm on. You shoot the first two, then your body wants to take the third shot after the same interval as the first and second, which can result in a rushed shot and a miss. One way to combat this is to break the rhythm by pausing between the second and third shots.

The next relay race involved two shooters form each team shooting at the same time. One rotator was placed directly in front of the other, and we had to rotate the back one without hitting the one in front. Hitting the front rotator meant we couldn't shoot for five seconds, which left us standing there waiting while the back rotator slowed down. The next relay had a pair of shooters trying to rotate both front and back rotators at once. A miss here could bring the other shooter's rotator to the halt while you were trying to rotate yours.

As I said, this was the first time I shot with rotators. I've decided I like them. They aren't as realistic as paper or cardboard silhouette targets, but they are useful for certain things. Their self-resetting nature means no time wasted taping targets between drills. They also give shooters a chance to shoot with a moving background while they try to hold focus on their front sight. The human eye is naturally attracted to movement and a moving target really tends to suck focus away from the sights. Finally, unlike paper targets, they force us to shoot on the target's schedule, rather than our own, which can be quite a challenge.

One nice feature of Steve Camp's rotators is that by putting the axles and paddles on a different stand, one which holds the rotating paddles horizontally rather than vertically, they can be turned into duelers. Each shooter fires at one of the paddles and the first one to get it past 90 degrees wins. We did a couple of duels, and I managed to win two out of three. It seemed like that if one shooter had a significantly slower draw than the other, or missed their first shot, the duel almost always went to the quicker, more accurate shooter. One shot wasn't enough to get the target through 90 degrees, but it was enough to make the loosing shooter's job much more difficult. If speed and accuracy of the first shot were fairly equal, victory was usually decided by the first miss. When Frank and Steve Camp were demonstrating the drill, they were going shot for shot without much movement in the paddles until Steve ran out of ammo, giving Frank the victory (the benefits of shooting a high capacity gun like the Glock).

During the afternoon, between rounds with the rotators, Frank Sharpe gave a nice lecture on his experiences teaching women to shoot. Frank has done a lot of ladies classes, so he's got a fair bit of experience in this area. One of the things he emphasized is that a significant percentage of women have experienced some sort of assault, whether it be rape, robbery, domestic abuse, or something else. They may have worked through the issues that arise from this sort of thing, but it's possible that they haven't and something in the process of teaching them self-defense will bring these feelings to the fore, and we have to be ready for that.

Saturday Night
What do you do on Saturdy night in Rochester, Indiana? Well, in John's class, we shoot stuff. We had some pizza and talked for a bit, waiting for it to get dark (around 9 o'clock this time of year). The first drill of the night shoot used just using the fading ambient light. We had to individually move down the line and put one shot into the top paddle of each of nine rotators. It was dark enough and the range long enough that the night sights really helped for this one. The next drill involved doing the same thing, but with some illumination from John's flashlight. His First-Light Tomahawk has the blue and red LEDs, and can flash them, along with strobing the main lamp, in a "takedown mode", imitating the lights of a police cruiser. We had to shoot the targets using only this for illumination.

John had the instructors break out the road flares and place them just in front of the rotators. This time rather than going down the line, we each stood in front of one rotator and tried to spin it. Then we did the same thing, but with the flares behind the rotators, backlighting them. Trying to spin the rotators at night was difficult, particularly with the flares behind them. The lack of light made it difficult to judge the position and movement of the rotator to know when to shoot.

Finally, we broke out the flashlights and moved down the line, this time putting two shots into each rotator. This meant that everyone had to manage a reload with their flashlight in hand somewhere along the line. I was standing there in the middle of the drill waiting for the next shooter to get going and when I realized I was at slide lock (I wouldn't have noticed until I tried to shoot if it hadn't been for my night sights). If we had a flashlight with a strobe feature, John asked us to use that, rather than the constant beam. This made shooting a bit more difficult, but it ought to distract the target more. This was my first time shooting in the dark with my First-Light Tomahawk. Once I got it oriented right, it worked pretty well, allowing me to maintain a pretty good two handed grip while using the light. With the finger loop it also worked pretty well allowing me to manipulate the gun and reload with the light in my hand. Definitely much better than using a tube light.

A lot of people seemed to have problems aligning the flashlight with their gun and illuminating the target directly. Most of these lights put out a lot of illumination, so there's a temptation to just throw enough light on the target to see it and call it good. The problem is, a light is a bullet magnet. When you're using it, which should be as little as possible, it makes sense to try to disrupt the enemy's ability to use it as an aiming point as much as possible. That means hitting him with the beam directly, and using a strobe if you've got it.

Finally, after a long, long day of shooting and learning, we headed back to the hotel and turned in for the night.

Sunday Morning
After another fine meal at a local diner, we got started with some basic loading and unloading drills. These were designed to get students used to giving the commands for getting new students loaded and unloaded, or to have them do a chamber or systems check on their guns. Once again, each student got to give the range commands as we loaded, checked chambers, and unloaded.

Afterwards, we had a nice discussion of must have gear for an instructor, from prop guns for demonstrations, to sunblock, to trauma and first aid kits.

A little later in the morning, John gave some quick lectures on the functioning and maintenance of AR and AK rifles. Don Johnson of DSArms gave a similar lecture on the FAL. Most of this was the same as in the rifle class I took a few months ago, so I won't repeat it here.

Sunday Afternoon
After a quick lunch, we moved down to one of the other, longer ranges for some long gun work. We didn't have a lot of time before we needed to start the test, so this section of the class was pretty brief.

Everyone laid their shotgun out on the tables, and John talked about the operation of different models, which was something I really needed, particularly the semi-autos. I don't really have any experience with anything other than an 870. There are some differences in handling techniques, particularly with the Benelli. The really odd duck was an S&W pump shotgun one student brought. As John pointed out, some of the usual handling techniques don't work on certain guns. For instance this S&W couldn't be voided in the usual way, by depressing the shell latch and removing rounds directly from the magazine. Instead, the shooter has to cycle the pump to eject each round from the magazine tube. This poses a much greater danger of a mishap than removing rounds from the magazine tube directly. Some shooters will use this technique with other guns, which don't require it. They should be discouraged.

We didn't actually shoot shotguns, which was a bit disappointing for me since I was hoping for some trigger time with my 870. We did do some handling drills, though, loading, chambering rounds and returning to transport mode, voiding the tube, etc. This is when we had our ND for the class. The student with the S&W shotgun was emptying his magazine and his finger hit the trigger instead of the slide release and let off a round. Thankfully, the gun was pointed in a safe direction and no one was hurt. However, it certainly underscored both the undesirability of this particular model of shotgun and the importance of proper unloading technique. It was a hell of an emotional bookmark.

We packed up our shotguns and brought out the rifles. John pointed out some features on certain student's guns, like flashlight mounts, foregrips, and different sling attachments. We only shot one rifle drill, moving and stopping to shoot five rifle plates at about 40 meters. I rushed it a bit on this one and missed three of the five, but finally started getting hits once I relaxed and slowed down a bit. I was also the only student to reload at the end of the drill, and one of the few to go any sort of scan and look around. As Frank and John pointed out afterwards, this is something that instructors need to guard against. It's real easy to relax after a drill and walk off thinking, "thank God that's over". This sort of thing has gotten people killed in actual gunfights, and we need to remain alert even after all the threats we can see have been taken care of. During training, we need to both make sure we do this ourselves, to set a good example for our students, and make sure our students do the same, so they develop good habits.

With the rifles out of the way, it was finally time for our test. The test starts with one in the chamber, and four live rounds and one dummy in the magazine. The dummy is loaded by someone other than the shooter, in the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th positions, meaning you don't know when the malfunction will crop up. The shooter draws and moves while awaiting the start signal. On the signal, we start firing until we hit the dummy round. When the gun fails to fire, it's time to move and clear the malfunction. After doing a tap-rack, continue shooting until the gun is empty, then do a reload with retention, while moving, of course. Once the gun is reloaded, fire two more rounds. That's a total of seven shots, a malfunction drill, and a tactical reload. 100% hits are required to pass. The time limit for most of his classes is 22 seconds, but instructors have to do it in 17 seconds. This is pretty challenging. Even John had to shoot it three times before he got in under the time limit (he finally did it in fifteen seconds).

None of the students managed to get it on the first try either. Nathan Camp was among the first to pass. He can shoot really well, not just for a seventeen year old, but really well period. It took me three tries. On my first run, I was only a faction of a second over the time limit, but I missed one of my shots. My second time through I got all my hits, but I started to do a second tap-rack rather than reloading. The third time through I concentrated on getting good hits and being smooth on the malfunction drill and reload and came in with about half a second to spare.

There are two ways to fail this test, miss, or go over time. Misses can be simple failures in concentration, but they generally seem to happen from people trying to shoot too quickly, so it all boils down to time. Seventeen seconds is an eternity to fire seven shots, the real time sinks are the malfunction clearance and the reload. Being able to perform these smoothly and cleanly while moving is the key. The reload seemed to be the sticking point for a lot of people. Some folks didn't seem to have a lot of practice retaining magazines when reloading, and they were fumbling quite a bit stowing that mag.

It took a while, but eventually every student except one managed to pass the test. As each person passed, John passed out DTI Instructor hats emblazoned with the latin motto "nemo curat". This translates as, "nobody cares" (I guess he doesn't want his instructors heads swelling up too big for the caps).

This was really an excellent class. All the material on teaching people to shoot was really quite excellent. John has definitely put a lot of thought into how to teach people these skills. There are some people who really know their stuff when it comes to shooting and self-defense, but lack the teaching skill to pass it on to their students. John's teaching skill is something noted back when I took my first class from him, but taking this course really made clear just how much effort he's put into his presentation.

Vicki did a great job in the brief time allotted doing her teaching women to shoot curriculum. Even for someone who read her book before the class, it was pretty eye opening, particularly going out and shooting with the sponges on the grip. Her "Mabel" questions realy forced the students to explain things as clearly as possible.

The other instructors did excellent work as well, but I really have to single out Frank Sharpe. He's clearly got a lot of experience teaching students to shoot. He does a great job explaining why to do something a certain way and he's the master of the emotional bookmark. I'd really like to make sure I can come to some more of John's courses where Frank is helping out in the future.

If there is one criticism of the class, it has to be that it was too short. It was longer than John's previous instructor courses, but there still wasn't enough time. Three days just isn't enough for four different guns, plus the instructional material, plus teaching women to shoot. The shotgun and rifle definitely got short shrift. This wasn't such a big deal for me, since I'd just had John's rifle class a few months earlier, but I think some of the other students may have been a bit more disappointed. There were also some parts of John's usual pistol curriculum that we didn't get to cover, like backup guns and the battlefield pick up drill. The material could have easily filled a full week. With John and Vicki's extensive experience they could have filled several weeks without running out of things to teach about firearms instruction, but you have to cut things off at some point.

I'd like to thank John, Vicki, Frank, Steve, John, Steve, and Don and my fellow students for an excellent course. This is an experience I'll not soon forget and one that will help me tremendously in the future. Hopefully, I will soon be able to put what I learned in the class to use teaching these vital self-defense skills to others. I would highly recommend John's instructor course to anyone thinking about teaching firearms skills.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Germany to ban paintball in wake of high school shooting

The German government is to ban paintball in response to the school shooting in which 16 people were killed in March.

Experts from Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives and her Social Democrat (SPD) coalition partners have agreed to outlaw all games in which players shoot at each other with pellets.

The governing parties say paintball trivialises violence and risks lowering the threshold for committing violent acts.

Infringements to the new rules, which the cabinet hopes to pass before a general election in September, could incur fines of up to 5,000 euros (£4,400).

A 17-year-old shot dead 15 people in the southwestern town of Winnenden, before killing himself in March, stunning many Germans and leading politicians to call for tighter gun rules.

The teenager shot many of his victims in the head with his father's legally registered pistol. His father, a member of a shooting club, had 15 guns at home – fourteen were locked in a gun closet as required by law but the pistol was in the bedroom.

Germany toughened its gun laws in 2002 after Robert Steinhauser, 19, shot dead 16 people before turning the gun on himself at a high school in the eastern German city of Erfurt.

The changes raised the minimum age for gun ownership to 21 from 18 and required gun buyers under 25 to present a certificate of medical and psychological health. Gun laws already required applicants to pass rigorous exams that can take up to a year.

The new rules would also grant authorities more rights in conducting checks with people owning guns, the sources said.

Sources in the SPD said the parties were also moving towards on agreement on the creation of a nationwide weapons register and were considering setting up biometric security locks for weapons' stores.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Hendrickson Lake

Shooting Zombies in the Rain.

Super Dell in the news again.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, Utah - Dell Schanze, often referred to as 'Super Dell,' was in court Friday to set a trial date after an off-duty motor vehicle enforcement police officer pulled him over for reckless driving and for carrying a firearm with an expired concealed weapons permit. Schanze said the case is a "total fraud" and claims that the police are targetting him unjustly. Prosecutors tried to offer Shanze a plea deal, but he rejected it. Schanze's trial date is expected to be set later Friday afternoon.



Utah's Personal Protection Laboratory