AAR CP2 Houston, TX 19-21June2012

Trident Concepts conducted their Combative Pistol, Level Two at the Montgomery County SO range in Houston, TX. This was a restricted class and I order to get into the class the Rangemaster held “tryouts”.

They had to compete for the slots, which I thought was a great idea. We had very capable shooters as a result and no safety issues, which is always nice. The course was paid for by a benefactor on the advisory board, a very gracious family and I want to take the time to say thank you to CS and family. It is genunionly heart warming tomseemthatmtype of generosity. The Sherrif personally came out to say thank you and it was very nicemto talk to someone inhis position take such a vested interest in his Deputies’ welfare. After an introduction we said thank you and unfortunately the benefactor was undergoing a move and couldn’t stay to observe the fruits of his labor. We were still able to get word to him about the overall success of the class and I’m sure he will appreciate the after action.

Boy did it rain and rain hard. I have no idea how we would have trained were it not for the covered range. We’ve seen these types of ranges before and they are excellent for enhancing training. We also had the pleasure of a range staff being on hand to handle any logistical issues. It is always nice to have extra sets of eyes and it made this class run smooth as silk. Though it was still hot and muggy, which would pose a problem with sweaty hands. Some would opt to wear gloves to compensate, which adds a new variable and sometimes you trade in one problem for an entirely different problem. The good news is when the sun did come out it we were in the shade…hard to beat. Once it started to get muggy though another problem we had to deal with was the eye protection fogging up. Good wrap around eye protection will fit close to your face making fogging in these conditions more likely. Having a soft lens clothe on hand is very valuable as is playing with the various “anti-fog” wipes on the market. These things are worth their weight in cold. Throw a few of the individual packets in your range bag and when conditions are optimal for fogging take the time to wipe them down in advance. We had several that would take them off during down time and forget to put them back on once on the firing line. It also brings up the question of having a good set of “clear” lens. While most of our eye protection is tinted lens of some type, you need to have a backup pair of clear lens. In fact, I use my clear lens so much that my tinted lenses are my backups.

Repaired steel target bracket

One of my steal target bracket’s had a cracked weld. I had stopped using it for rifles due to the punishment. Pistol was a little less abusive so I brought this one on this trip. One of the students overheard me commenting and offered to take it home and repair it. I’m so glad he did and what a great job, nice to see quality craftsmanship alive and well.

This class had a high percentage of M1911, then the rest were Glocks, but just about everyone was using the excellent ALS holster from Safariland. We had a good old fashion thumbreak and another type of holster that was not authorized for carry, just not sturdy enough. One of our instructors broke one so we abstained after that. Honestly I hadn’t seen one in a while. We also saw the full complement of calibers, 9mm, .40cal and 45ACP. we did have one student shooting a .40cal Glock was having a difficult time with limp wristing. While he got good at immediate action drills he really didn’t conquer that issue. As a relatively new shooter he should make big gains now that he understands the issue. He should be able to self correct eventually know the he has developed some self awareness.

To a warrior his hands are his life. You have to protect your hands for sure, but you should also work at toughening them up. However there is only so much you can do in the end and sharp edges should be avoided on a duty style pistol. Competition or adjustable sights should be avoided or at least deburred. I can’t emphasis the importance of good combat sights, that is one area you should invest wisely.

We had several grip screws come loose and a few fall off. Talk about a needle in a haystack. I just so happen to look down at one point and viola there it was. Pretty lucky. Some type of thread locker should be applied and you periodically want to check their tension.

Magazines were a problem again. We had several puddles of water that they kept getting dropped into. Not much you can do about that. What you don’t want to do is create a training scar by storing empty magazines in you pocket to avoid dropping them. Not a good situation overall. A few base plates were damaged and rendered the magazines unserviceable. We still see reliability issues with the 10 round single stack magazines. While we didn’t have as many in the class we still saw some problems.

Another problem we continue to see is reliability issues with the double stack M1911 style platforms. I witnessed several problems with the one we had in this class. A major issue for their reliability is the magazines as was the case in the last class, but it appeared these magazines were not the root cause, so a possibility could be the factory ammunition, but it is doubtful. I think these style pistols are a great option in certain situations, but for a hard use duty pistol I have to give a vote of no confidence when there are so many other options available.

One of our core philosophies is creating a subculture within our industry; we have started by creating and enforcing standards of accuracy. I had several in-depth conversations with various students and staff on this topic in this class. It is not easy, but accuracy needs to be the major focus. Developing solid combat marksmanship skills is not an overnight success; it takes discipline and commitment. Like anything else in life worth having it doesn’t come easy. Once folks are familiar with our accuracy standards, it places a great emphasis on their own abilities. Gone are the days of just getting by, you want it, you have to earn it. Those who have the greatest resistance to this mentality are generally the ones with the more fragile egos. I don’t mind missing a shot, what I do mind is second-guessing my ability to take the shot. Don’t make that mistake, have the confidence to make the shot.  Here is an excerpt from I received from a student in the class, it pretty much sums up so many major core values in our classes;

 “The next day after class I was back on the street making contacts, and I have to say it was definitely different than prior to class. My Focus was of judging distance on Everything I observed, and the second was Confidence in my abilities and myself.  As you observed in training I was extremely hard on myself when I made mistakes. I have been told that I am my own worst enemy numerous times, but it’s just who I am. Now I can’t wait to get to the range this weekend to shoot again and keep my edge, even though I have worked on Trigger Manipulation at least 30 times each night prior to bed. On a final note “My Thanks to you” I cannot put into words my gratitude to you and everyone who made this class possible.”

Basic Marksmanship Drills

So, we started our range time with preparatory marksmanship skills and rolled right into some marksmanship drills. The class did very well during this segment, but I noticed a few students that did really well as soon as we started shooting deteriorated. We are all expert marksman when we dry fire, but when your dry fire doesn’t reflect your live fire results you are doing something wrong. Probably the biggest issue here is most students will use their First, best sight picture when dry fire each and every time. Then we start with some live fire and they go pack to “camping out” on the front sight that leads to poor trigger management. It is not easy, but if you can turn off your internal dialogue and just perform you will generally do a lot better.

One thing this class had a hard time with was shooting versus the timer. Many made the classic mistake of out running their headlights. The timer is there as a gauge, but the objective is accuracy. You may not make the par times and while you don’t have to like that, you don’t want to miss as well. Focus on one component at a time until that is developed then move onto something else. Here being smooth and concentrating on the marksmanship fundamentals will generate greater success down the road. If I had to put my finger a common mistake I saw during the timed drills it was the second shot. Most managed to get a good first shot, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out when someone has really fast splits, they probably didn’t do a good job on the second shot. That sight has to settle then the trigger management has to be applied. Slapping the second shot will not help produce a hit.

During the diagnostic drills we had some interesting trigger issues. A right-handed student was printing his group to the right at 3:00. Very odd, most of the time this is a result of too much trigger and wrapping around the outboard side. Plus, this was a M1911 so pretty easy to see with large hands and a thin frame. That is a huge plus to the slim framed pistols, they allow you to get a solid grip, but you still need to train your trigger finger to rest on the front part of the trigger and not to curl around such as this case. Once the student recognized what he was doing it was pretty easy to solve and you could almost see immediate results. Though he would struggle with consistency. At the same time on the other side of the firing line we were seeing a similar trigger finger placement problem. This time it was the opposite and not enough trigger or placing pressure on the inboard edge. This was a Glock type pistol and would require an adjustment to the grip in order to allow for better trigger finger placement. This correction is a bit tougher since it now involved multiple corrective steps.

The other side to having a covered range is there is no excuse for not picking up brass. So, once we were done for the day brass call commenced and we broke for the day.

We started TD2 off with some more diagnostic work and we saw improvement incrementally, but still lacked the consistency. One of the students really struggled trying to perfect his sight picture. You could see him taking loads of time and then as an observer you could watch his trigger finger move. You don’t need high-speed cameras for this, if you can see the finger moving, chances are you have disturbed your sight picture. Then the very next volley he shot an amazing group. When I asked him how he did it, he kind of shrugged his shoulders and commented how he didn’t take as much time, that as soon as his sights settled he broke the shot. Bravo Zulu there, that is exactly what the FBSP is all about.

Shooting while moving

We shot some movement drills and folks did a pretty good job. Part of the reason for the drill is to learn your limitations and not every shot can be taken on the move. Because of the heavy emphasis on correct muscle recruitment we saw a better mount, which when we started moving helped to produce higher hit ratios. From 10 yards and in most everyone did a really good job. Face shots on the move are never easy, but in this part of the evolution I think it really started to sink in about the FBSP. Something I noticed during the demonstrations was when I didn’t employ a solid mount with good muscle recruitment, my shot to shot recover was noticeably higher. There were a few times when I was trying to explain things as I was doing them and I was a little bit looser. It showed on the target, the next repetition was much improved when I locked everything down. Damn that consistency issue, nobody is immune from it.

Head to head competition

We ran a lot of elimination drills where on dropped shots the student was eliminated from the rest of the drill and you can tell people were frustrated and most would comment how they broke their concentration for just a second. That is all it takes, your focus has to intense on the task at hand. This would pay off for a couple of students during the head to head competition at the end of the day. It was great to watch the dual and one student was able to outscore the rest of the class. I noticed that so far throughout the class he demonstrated the most consistency and aside for a slight aiming issue early on did very well. It was his consistency when stepping up to the line that allowed him to do well. He was so familiar with the drill that is was just business as usual. Nice job! That was a good way to end the day.

We started TD3 with some more diagnostics and it seemed that a few folks forgot to eat their Wheaties that morning. Then we got into one of my favorite evolutions in the class, which is strong hand only. Still see folks struggle trying to figure this all out, there is really not much to figure out. Drop your weak hand at your side, grip firmly and apply the same trigger management skills you should already know. The problem we see is folks try to perfect the sight picture then still slap the trigger. Just let the sight settle and then squeeze. Of course, there will be an increase in recoil impulse. Just drive the gun back to target efficiently and you will make up most of the time. See your first, best sight picture and you will probably make all of it then.

We shot a few more drills leading us up to the afternoon then got setup for the El Presidente drills. Man, I was really expecting that with so many excellent warm-up runs we would see several marksmanship badged being awarded, but those who shot well let the wheels fall off and missed qualifying. Just about half the class could have qualified, but for a variety of reasons they didn’t. I think the most common reason I saw was just poor trigger management. I saw it all, fingers flying of the trigger, slapping the trigger and few things I hadn’t seen up to this point. You just have to settle down and not let some tempo in your head dictate the shots, but let the sights and good trigger management drive the gun. We setup for the standards test and a lot of people did really well. One student screwed the pooch and dropped a round in the white from the 25 yard line. Easy to do, I happened to be watching him when he took the shot and for most of the class he ran well, but at distance he just couldn’t apply smooth trigger management consistently. I sometimes don’t even have to look down range to know it was a miss and this one was pretty obvious.

25 yard line diagnostics

Once we were done with our range cleanup we transitioned to the classroom for our debrief. Great insight from everyone, a lot of common themes and based off the feedback I can see this group getting much better. Typical with these types of classes there is a lot of camaraderie and it will help as many were already goading each other about the better shot. I know that several will be visiting the range to practice so it will be interesting to see how it shakes down. Again, I want to say thank you for all the folks who made this class happen, from the Sheriff, to the benefactor, to the range staff and lastly the students all of which were full time Deputies and back on the street the very next day. What a great symbiotic relationship and too bad we don’t see it more often.

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