Saturday, October 6, 2012

Training Review – Practical Pistol I

I’ve been shooting USPSA on a somewhat regular basis for almost 2 years now. I started because I wanted to learn to shoot on the move, to better prepare for any potential self-defense scenario. I thought shooting IDPA or USPSA would be a good way to get used to shooting on the move, rather than just standing still behind a firing line shooting at stationary targets, and it has been a very good learning tool. I knew this wasn’t going to be enough, so I’ve been looking for formal training. I wanted to start with the basics like grip, stance, drawing from a holster, and reloading, but I wanted a class that was going to help me improve in self-defense and USPSA as well.

What I found was Accelerated Shooting Performance’s Practical Pistol I class, run by Todd Kennedy.  I met Todd at our local matches several months back. He was my RO for a couple of stages and he was nice enough to critique me when the stages were over. He told me what I did right, what I did wrong, and how to correct the mistakes. He impressed me with both what he knew and how he got it across to me in an easy to understand way. Several other shooters had taken his classes and they all spoke highly of him and the classes, so I signed up for Practical Pistol I.
The class started with a typical safety brief explaining the 180, keeping weapons pointed down range, holstering hot, and the safe area. Then Todd explained the first aid kit. This is when the cold reality of the dangers of handling firearms set in; when Todd explained how to use the tourniquet. I remember thinking to myself, “I hope like Hell he’s not the only one trained in treating gunshot wounds. If he is, I hope he doesn’t end up getting shot.”
Everything in this class is about improving your shooting skills and making you a more efficient (and hence faster) shooter. All the little things you do to shave 1/100 of a second here and there can help you move that much closer to winning a match. All drills are timed, and as we worked thru those drills, the times got shorter. Before this class, if you had told me I could draw and get my first shot on target in less than 2 seconds, I would have laughed at you. Now I’m trying to push myself to get an even faster time.
Todd put individual attention into everyone’s grip. We all got our thumbs marked while in a good grip and referred to those marks numerous times throughout the day. But standing at a line, holding a pistol, and adjusting your grip to get it right is not how it’s really done during a match. We (hopefully) draw into that perfect grip and extend into the target. We learned to bring the front sight up and into the target as we’re extending, and then at almost full extension, slide the rear sight up under the front sight and take the shot.
This is where I had the most trouble. When that front sight gets into the A zone, take up the slack in your trigger so that when the rear sight comes into alignment you can squeeze that last little bit to break the shot. What most of us were doing was slowly taking out that slack, and when we met resistance from the trigger, we’d snatch on the trigger when our sights lined up. Hence, a pulled shot hitting low. I think everyone in the class would agree that they need to continue practicing this.
I always knew that to get the fastest follow up shot, you needed to watch the front sight come back onto the target. I don’t know if I ever did see this or not in a match or in practice. What I didn’t know, or think about really, was in order to see the front sight come back you had to see it lift first. We worked hard on watching the front sight lift. In the beginning, I don’t think I saw it lift 10% of the time, but when I concentrated on watching it, my accuracy went way up, including on follow up shots.
Next we worked on reloads. I always knew my reloads sucked, but this just confirmed it. Who knew that the whole problem with my reloads was just in how I grabbed the mags off my belt? A simple turn of the wrist inward corrected most of my problem. Shallower magazine holders will help as well. They will allow you to get a deep enough grip on the mag so that the baseplate is on the heel of your hand. If the baseplate isn’t on the heel of your hand, it makes seating a magazine much more difficult, especially if you aren’t at slide lock and you’re trying to seat a fully loaded magazine.
We briefly touched on starting from a position of surrender (hands above your shoulders). The trick to this is elbows in tight to your sides, and hands touching your earmuffs. Your hands only need to be above your shoulders. This keeps the distance your hands have to travel to draw to a minimum, making for a faster draw. Now let’s try it from facing up range. This is the scary part. We practiced this unloaded, but in a match, doing this wrong could put you on the sidelines watching your buddies shoot while your gun is in the trunk of the car. The key is turning your head and hips toward your strong side and then pivoting into your shooting stance BEFORE drawing.
The last thing we covered was target transitions. Here is where smooth and steady wins the race. With two targets side by side, we’ve all seen the guys shoot them with two fast shots, a pause, and two more fast shots. How many of us ever stopped and did the math on the times though? We did this and timed it. Two quick shots with a 0.3 second spacing, a 0.6 second transition to the next target, and another 0.3 seconds to the final shot and you’ve got 1.2 seconds for 4 shots. Now take the same two targets, and keep a cadence between shots (seeing the second target ahead of the sights as you transition), and you get a 0.9 second time for 4 shots. Three tenths of a second doesn’t sound like a lot, but multiply that by the number of target pairs in a stage and you’re shaving time off your stage and possibly beating out that other guy.
We finished our day with a little fun on a plate rack. We had two competitions. The first was fastest time to shot the plates in the order of 1, 3, 5, 2, 4, 6. I didn’t win this round (I wasn’t watching the front sight lift, so I was missing too much.) Ethan, our 13 year old student, won this round with a time around 8.3 seconds.  Winner, winner, no chicken dinner. Instead he won a box of .223 ammo. The second round was just a straight 1 thru 6 order on the plate rack. Ethan had trouble this round, but Dan smoked the rack with a 7.8 second time. I did much better after the second plate when Todd started telling me to watch the sight lift. I ended up with an 8.7 second time. I didn’t win, but I was pleased with my performance that time.
Overall, a great class, and a great instructor. Here is his bio…
Todd Kennedy – Accelerated Shooting Performance, Brunswick, GA
Todd is a twenty year law enforcement veteran with fifteen years’ experience as a federal law enforcement firearms instructor. He has worked for several federal agencies, to include the United States Secret Service, as a Special Agent and Divisional Firearms Instructor Coordinator, and is currently assigned as the Firearms Training Manager and Firearms Instructor at The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, ATF National Academy. Todd routinely trains with world class champions to include World and multi-time National Champion David Sevigny, Bob Vogel, Daniel Horner, Taran Butler, Travis Tomasie, Manny Bragg, Ernest Langdon and Scott Warren. He is a member of the United States Practical Shooting Association where he holds a “Grand Master” card in Production and “Master” cards is Limited and Limited-10. Todd also holds a Master card in the International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA). He was the 2009 USPSA Virginia/Maryland Sectional Production Champion, the 2009 USPSA Area 6 Limited-10 Champion, Second High Overall 2009 Area 7 and Area 8 Limited-10 Championships and Second Overall (First Master) at the 2009 USPSA Florida State Production Championship. He finished with Top 16 Honors at the 2009 USPSA Limited-10 Handgun National Championships finishing 14th overall. In 2011, he took 3rd High Overall Limited at the Alabama State USPSA Championship, 2nd High Overall Limited at the SC State USPSA Championship and 2nd High Overall Limited at the Virginia/Maryland USPSA Sectional Championship shooting a Glock 35 at all three matches with High Overall Law Enforcement Awards.
Todd runs classes when he gets enough interest and time in his busy schedule. I’d like to say thanks to him for his class as well as for what he does for our country. If anyone is interested in attending one of Todd’s classes, drop me a line for contact information.
Be safe.

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