Saturday, May 15, 2010

Roger Phillips' Advanced Point Shooting Progressions

Note: The Utah Polite Society will host Roger Phillips' Advanced Point Shooting Progressions class on June 12-13, immediately the Point Shooting Progressions class. I recently had the chance to take the advanced class, so for those of you who are signed up for it, this is a bit of a preview. If any of you are still on the fence, get off it and sign up! This is a great class!

Earlier this month, I took Roger Phillips' Advanced Point Shooting Progressions class in Blairsville, Georgia. This class came only a month after I took Point Shooting Progressions, so I didn't have time to practice these skills much, but I didn't have time to forget much either.

I shot the class with my usual Glock 21. Since PSP I put a set of Warren Tactical sights on it, which I really like (and actually used a little bit in this class). We also did some work with backup guns, mine was my Smith and Wesson 442 hammerless j-frame. Most of the rest of the students in the class shot Glocks, generally of the 9mm variety. There were also a few XDs and one 1911. Backups were more varied and included j-frames, smaller Glocks, Kahrs and several other models.

This class was on the large side: 16 students. All of them were quite squared away and everyone had a solid grasp of the point shooting and dynamic movement skillsets. The students in the class included four Suarez International instructors: myself, Dan Robison, John Meade, and Rick Klopp (also our host). This was my first class since officially being announced as an instructor. I think the number of instructors speaks volumes about the skills that Roger brings to the table. I've trained with 12 of the 16 guys in the class before, either at the PSP class last month, previous SI classes, or AMOK! seminars. It seems I'm getting to know a lot of the SI training junkies in the southeast.

Saturday Morning

Roger gave a brief introduction to what we would be doing in the class, then went through the usual safety lecture. We signed the usual waivers and promised on video not to sue anybody no way, nohow, for any reason.

One of the elements that distinguishes this class from PSP is the inclusion of back-up guns. Roger talked a bit about BUGs, and the different roles they play in addition to being back-ups: as primary guns in an NPE, as a gun you can discretely have your hand on in the pocket, and as a gun that can be moved around to the appropriate spot as conditions change (pants pocket, jacket pocket, etc.)

We started off working the transition to the BUG in some dry drills. We didn't do any other BUG specific drills, but Roger asked us not to do any reactive reloads this morning and instead to switch to the BUG any time we ran dry.

Other than the addition of the BUG, most of this morning's drills were refreshers of the PSP material. Our first shooting drill was drawing and shooting from two-handed half extension starting at two yards. After each string, we reholstered and backed up a yard. Roger had us take the half-extension out to about 5-6 yards, then let us go out to 3/4 extension. One problem several people had when transitioning to the BUG as they ran dry was extending it out too far. We're used to paying attention to retention with the primary, but those habits aren't as ingrained with the BUG. We ran the same drills one handed, shooting from half hip out to 5-6 yards, then moving to 3/4 hip.

We moved on to some focal point transition drills, firing at the pelvis, then taking the headshot. Making the headshot at 4-5 yards from half-hip is a challenge, but one that most of the shooters in the class were up to.

Our last review drill was the drawstroke zipper: firing as soon as you have the gun horizontal and stitching the target up the centerline as you bring the gun up to eye level.

The first drill that was not a repeat from PSP was the reverse zipper. Rather than stitching the opponent up the body, the goal here is to keep all the bullets in the same spot as you bring the gun up. This has some real-life applications (if only a small part of the opponent's body is exposed from behind cover, you want to be able to hit that part). In addition, it helps to move the student beyond the basic 'gun parallel to the ground' point shooting skill set to the more advanced eye-hand coordination skill set. These more advanced skills would be vital to some of the exercises later in the class.

We moved on to some of the center axis relock drills. These drills were old hat for those of us who took PSP last month, but they're a relatively recent addition and some folks had taken PSP before all of these had made it onto the syllabus. We practiced shooting from the low and high CAR positions, then moved on to the CAR zipper, shooting as you bring the gun up to eye level.

The last drill before lunch was one John Meade dubbed the "One Shot Squat". This was our introduction to some of the vertical displacement work we would be doing this afternoon. You simply start shooting in point shoulder and continue shooting as you drop down to a squatting position, then stand back up. The trick is adjusting your point of aim as you move vertically so that you get a nice tight group. This seems simple but the first time through a lot of folks ended up with vertical stringing, because they kept their shoulder locked. We're used to tracking targets as we move laterally, but not as we move vertically. This drill will cure you of that.

Saturday Afternoon

After a brief lunch, we picked up with the ambidextrous zipper. This is a variation on a drill that Gabe does, firing alternating between one handed with the right hand, two handed, two handed with the gun in the left hand, then one handed on the left, and so on. Rather than having us do it at full extension as Gabe does, we did it as we moved out the drawstroke, passing the gun back and forth at half, 3/4, and full extension. This got us shooting at every major point in the drawstroke with each hand, both one and two handed.

Transferring the gun from one hand to the other is a useful skill set, but if you get shot in the hand or arm, the gun is probably going to end up on the ground rather than remaining in the hand for a transfer. For our next drill we put the gun on the ground, then had to scoop it up with the support hand and fire as we rose to standing. This is pretty easy if the gun lands on it's right side, pointed a little to the right, but if it doesn't, it's going to require some adjustment in your grip as you bring it up.

Finally, consider what happens if your gun hand is injured before you get a chance to draw. The next drill called on us to draw our primary gun with the support hand. Roger demonstrated a couple of techniques (for both folks carrying appendix and those using strong side hip carry). I carry strong side hip, and prefer reaching around behind the back. This is something I've done before with the Utah Polite Society, but you could tell it was new for a lot of folks. There are lots of opportunities to sweep yourself or other people, but drawing with the support side hand is an absolutely vital skill set to develop.

We move back to 25 yards and did some shooting from behind cover. Roger is known as a point shooting guy, but he's not averse to using sights when they're necessary and appropriate. At 25 yards and behind cover, they're definitely both. We shot from both sides of the barricade, both standing and kneeling paying close attention to extending as little as possible beyond cover, yet not shooting the barricades. I found my new Warren tactical sights quite good for this sort of shooting (yes, we did do sighted fire in Advanced Point Shooting Progressions).

The barricade also had some slots in it down near the bottom, so we practiced dropping down and shooting through these, to simulate firing under a piece of cover like a car. We started with some seated fire through a slot about 18 inches high. Being 6'5" I found this a bit difficult, and actually ended up shooting it more from supine than seated. We then did some shots from Spetsnaz prone on both the right and left sides, through a 12" slot. I'd learned about Spetsnaz prone in the rifle context and hadn't really considered it with a pistol. It works quite well though. Some folks had quite a bit of trouble with this, since it requires a lot of flexibility. Many of these folks ended up doing it in urban prone rather than Spetsnaz, but I actually found it easier than the seated shooting.

Roger set out four of large appliance boxes for cover, laid out in an semicircle about 5-7 yards from a pair of targets. We started out right up at a pair of targets. On the start signal, we moved to our five o'clock to the first piece of cover, shot from both sides, moved to the second piece of cover, shot from both sides, and so on around the arc until the fourth piece of cover. After shooting from either side of it, we charged the targets ending the drill about where we started. The two targets were numbered and as we moved, Roger yelled out which one we should direct our fire at. The first two pieces of cover were reasonably high, good for kneeling and standing fire respectively. The last two were really short, especially for guys my size. You could really only work these from some sort of prone. I ran through my last mag easily accessible from prone behind the fourth piece of cover, so I switched to my j-frame for the final charge. Roger, of course, immediately saw me drawing my five shot snubby and yelled out "one and two, one and two" telling me both targets were threats. As I emptied the j-frame into target #1 I was already reaching for my knife (a nice big Cold Steel Voyager X2) and buried it in the second target. This drew quite a laugh.

Our next drill was the Sul Slalom. A series of four barricades were set up one behind the other in front of a target. This drill tests the ability to automatically go to Sul as you pass in front of an innocent bystander, then extend back out when the target becomes visible again. We slalomed back and forth between the barricades as we moved up to the target, extending and retracting as appropriate.

In PSP, Roger had us shoot a drill where we stood facing uprange and drew and shot targets behind us without moving our feet. For APSP he took this one step further and had us do the same drill on our knees. This adds considerably to the difficulty, because it eliminates the 60 degrees or so of rotation you can get from your legs. Form the knees you really had to crank yourself around hard to get to get the gun to bear on target. We'll rarely be called on to shoot behind us from kneeling in the real world, but developing this degree of rotation is is important to being able to shoot behind you as you move away from an adversary.

The next drill followed up the one shot squat, instead of just dropping down to a squatting position, we went all the way down to lying on our backs then got all the way back up, all the while maintaining a continuos cadence of fire. Being knocked down during a fight is pretty likely and the ability to fight your way back to your feet is immensely important. This requires a really well developed point shooting index and good one handed shooting skills. It also requires some thought about how you will get down and up without kicking up your feet into the line of fire. We managed to get through this with some pretty good accuracy and without anyone putting a hole in their foot.

If you're going to get knocked down during a fight, the most likely time for it to happen is probably at the outset. The last drill of the day was drawing and shooting from the ground, both on your back and on your belly. Just to make it a bit more interesting, we didn't do it with our legs pointed directly towards the target. Instead our feet were pointed towards the 10:30 the first time we did the drill and 1:30 the second time, meaning at least one of those times we had to go across the body (whether we were right or left handed).

This wrapped things up for the day. It had been sprinkling a few times throughout the day and it really started pouring just as we finished packing up. Very good timing.

We got together for dinner at a local eatery. As usual, there was some great fellowship between shooters. I had a good meal with some great company.

Sunday Morning

The next morning we started up at 8:00, rather than 9:00, to make it a bit easier for Roger to make his flight.

Roger started off with some lecture and demonstration of the different takeoff methods. Everyone in the class was familiar with the Pekiti takeoff and the 'lean and push' method (basically the same way you would start walking). He also covered the Systema takeoff, pioneered by Sonny Puzikas. It's an interesting technique, and I can see some situations where it would have some advantages over the PTO. I don't know that I have enough experience with it to really judge it at this point though. I really need to put it to the test in FoF (both trying it myself and having people try it on me).

Roger went through his own enhanced pekiti takeoff. This variant of the PTO trades gives up some horizontal displacement and speed of access to your gun in return for a lot more vertical displacement. Again, I need more experience with it, but I can see some applications.

We led off with the first shot drill. This drill involves doing a takeoff and firing your first shot on your second step. The key to getting a good hit is to hold the shot until just after your foot hits the ground, so the footfall doesn't jar the gun and throw off your aim. We ran the drill a second time using the enhanced pekiti. This is a bit more of a challenge because the extreme amount of upper body movement tends to delay the start of your drawstroke.

Next, Roger set up a simple zig-zag drill. We started at seven yards and closed on a target using diagonal movement and several direction changes. We did something similar in PSP, but this time Roger emphasized keeping up our shooting during direction changes. Keeping shots on target while cutting back the other direction is certainly challenging. During this drill, John Meade took a bit of a tumble. He lost his footing and basically did a cartwheel (across his shoulders rather than his hands) ending up on his knees after doing a full 360 of rotation. Despite this fairly radical spill, he kept the gun pointed in a safe direction and didn't let loose any shots as he went around. If he'd meant to do that it really would have been quite impressive.

For our next drill, we charged aggressively straight towards the target. This isn't something you usually do in an SI class, but it can be appropriate in situations where you have the initiative in a proactive gunfight and can dominate the adversary through aggressive action. After charging straight in the first time we ran it again. This time we simulated the situation changing during our attack. Perhaps the adversary brought a weapon into action or put got a hit on us and the we went from a proactive, dominant position to one where we need are behind the curve and need to react. In response halfway through our charge, we took off at a diagonal and turned our response from a proactive one to a reactive one.

The following drill continued the theme of moving at the opponent, only instead of charging directly at him, we moved to the side and attacked parallel to the initial line of force. This makes you a bit harder to hit and makes it less likely to end up in a hand to hand fight with him if you haven't put him down by the time you get there (instead allowing you to pass by and potentially circle around behind him and continue to shoot). We launched into this parallel track using the enhanced pekiti takeoff, which is very well suited for this sort of sideward displacement followed by a forward advance.

Our last drill before lunch involved a Systema takeoff to the forward diagonal followed by an elliptical path that curved back toward the target. Even in drills that call for straight line movement, some folks tend to curve, particularly for diagonal movement. Roger decided to throw in a drill that actually called for elliptical movement for these folks (which, of course, led to jokes that they would end up going in a straight line).

Sunday Afternoon

After a brief break for lunch, we picked up with the confined space in quartata. This is a technique that Gabe came up with for getting off the X in a narrow space, like a hallway or between two parked cars. First, you throw yourself sideways against one wall, then drop down to a crouch, then return to standing as you move to the other side of the hall. The combination of these three displacements in rapid succession can give you a chance to get some rounds on target without getting shot yourself.

We started working some of the rear oblique angles, taking off to the 5:00 and 7:00, then changing direction to circle around to the opponent's flanks. This simulates the process of turing a reactive gunfight into a proactive one by getting around behind the opponent. This drill led to quite a bit of excitement. One student hit one of the metal supports holding up the target frame and his round ricocheted off and fragmented. A bit of the jacket hit Rick Klopp in the scalp. The cut was pretty small, but it bled quite freely (typical for head wounds). Dr. John Meade was right there and we Rick sitting with a bandage on his head inside of a minute. Despite a roll of gauze infused with a hemostatic agent it still took quite a while to get the bleeding stopped. Eventually, John was able to slap a band-aid on it and Rick went and put on a hat. No serious harm done. Nonetheless, this is a reminder of the dangers of this sort of training. If the jacket fragment had struck, say, an unprotected eye, it could have done serious and permanent damage. Wear proper safety gear!

Next, we worked on the triangle drill. This involves getting off the X to the 5 o'clock, moving out five or more yards while shooting using CAR, then changing direction and moving laterally across the range, followed by another direction change to close directly in on the target, completing the triangle. Again, this simulates the changing tempo of the fight as we move along the reactionary curve, from getting off the X in a reactive gunfight, to A lot of folks (including me) managed to run out of ammo just as we were coming up on the target at the end of the drill. I took the opportunity to exercise the 'empty gun as an impact weapon' skillset and jabbed the target in the face with the muzzle of my pistol. We ran the drill again using the in quartata technique to get off the X rather than CAR. This time I took it out further, to about 8-9 yards and included a reload as I moved before charging back in, so I didn't run out of ammo.

Our penultimate exercise was the S-drill. This drill had a single student moving back and forth in front of a line of six targets in an "S" pattern. Walking parallel to the targets at a distance of five yards, turning back and walking the other way three yards from the targets, then walking right along one yard from the targets, then move back out to five yards and repeating. Just to make things interesting, there were three target stands set out at 2 and 4 yards representing bystanders. As we walked along the line, Roger would announce where we were on the reactionary continuum (ahead of the curve, even, behind the curve, or way behind the curve). Then he called out a target number or numbers and we had to react appropriately, given the distance and where we are on the reaction curve. If you're at five yards and ahead of the curve, stand and deliver may be appropriate. If you're at one yard and behind the curve, it's time to get off the X. Depending on how you shoot, he might call for follow up shots or additional threats. Once you've dealt with the targets he called, reholster and continue walking. He generally gave each shooter 3-4 setups, giving them a chance to experience different points on the curve and different distances.

When I ran the drill, the first setup he called had me way behind the curve, at one yard, against a single opponent. I hit the target with my support hand, drew to the full retention position and put 5-6 rounds in the target's pelvis, then got off the X to the 5 o'clock as I brought the gun out to full extension and zippered him up to a headshot. As far as I saw, I was the only student to simulate going hands on with any of the targets during this drill.

The final exercise of the class was defending Sul. We practiced starting in Sul and shooting from retention against targets only a few feet way. We did this from all angles: facing the targets, facing right and left, and facing away.

Final Thoughts

This wrapped up two long and intense days of very high level shooting. For me, PSP was really about taking my point shooting and dynamic movement skills beyond the level I thought I could achieve. Advanced PSP started with these skills and taking them into realms I didn't really think were possible, such as continuous fire through vertical displacement. The class also integrated these individual skills into sequences that flowed smoothly together. I had a tendency to see these skills as discrete actions that happen in series, rather than a seamless series of events. After this class it's much easier to see how they blend seamlessly together as you shift form one to another. As John Farnam puts it, "We die in the gaps"; even if our individual techniques are highly effective, the need to switch from one to the other can leave us vulnerable unless we can flow between them without pause.

As always, Roger's material is top flight and he did an excellent job presenting it. It's hard to believe that this is only the second time he's taught this class. Aside from relying on a written course outline more than he did for PSP, there was no sign of this being a brand new curriculum.

In addition to Roger, I think a big part of what made this class so great was the caliber of the shooters (pun intended). Often, a class includes that one guy you want to keep an eye on, because you know that if someone is going to do something stupid, it will be him. That guy wasn't in this class. Everyone was very squared away, very safe, and very skilled. There wasn't anyone slowing the class down and we ripped through this material. I hope to see a lot of these folks at future classes (including Warrior Skills Camp!). Given that this is the second (or third, or fourth) time I've seen many of them, the odds are pretty good.

I should also thank Rick Klopp for doing a great job hosting the class. Not many would maintain such good humor after taking (part of) a bullet to the head.

In summary, this was a great class. I would highly recommend any of Roger's classes, and this really is the apex of what he teaches. If you interested civilian oreinted gunfight training at the very highest level, this is the class.


Utah's Personal Protection Laboratory