Trident Concepts conducted their 3-day Combative Pistol, Level Two at the Sig Academy in Epping, NH. The class was filled with a LE and private citizens from all over the Eastern Seaboard. We had several students who couldn’t make the class at the last minute due to Hurricane Sandy and our hearts and prayers go out to them as they struggle to put together their lives. Not only that, but a serious storm blew in right before we got there and blanketed the area with about an inch or so of fresh snow. The weather would taper off from pretty damn cold, to brisk to really nice on the final day. This would have an adverse effect on most everyone simply because you had to shoot with gloves or you had half way frozen hands, more on this a bit later.
We saw the usually displacement of firearms with a heavy emphasis on the Sig line as well as the S&W then a scattering of a few Glocks, an old war horse and an HK. We still see the occasional poor holster selection and from a duty perspective I cannot recommend enough the Safariland ALS holster line. Many students would ask about my holster selection and that is the one I give them hands down. We saw several other open top type holsters, but excessive bulk from winter clothing would be a challenge for some. Unfortunately, you just have to take the time to slap your first line gear on the outside of your clothing. You are really not getting much value from attempting to draw from concealment. One, it is a bit rough keeping the core warm when you constantly break the seal on your microclimate. Second, it can be risky holstering up with the modern day striker fired pistols with no external safety and all that extra clothing. By TD2 most had figured it out and the weather started to get a bit nicer, or at least enough to not worry as much.
We saw a higher than normal fiber optic sights in the class. I understand the benefits to these sight types, but I still see some problems that need to be addressed. The most common is failure to be point of aim/point of impact. One student struggled with a consistently high grouping that had to be compensated at some point with a low hold. Not ideal for a combat pistol, POA/POI is the best sight configuration. We also had a student with a compact model pistol with the “Big Dot” sight system. I use to think that as my eyes grew older I would more than likely have to look at these sights and the inaccuracy they produced and that was the hardest sell. It was like going from a high performance vehicle to junker. I wasn’t happy about what lay in my future and I’m glad that is not the only option. Several students took the time to get behind my Glock 17 equipped with a Leopold DeltaPoint mini-red dot sight. It might not be without it’s own limitations, but I am way happier with this as my option for aging eyes than those big dot sights. Of course, there is the cost incurred, but all it takes is playing with them for a few magazines before you see the absolute value. I even spoke with a few of the folks from Sig who indicated that some of their slides will be coming pre-cut to accommodate some of the popular optics in the future. I have been wearing out my DP and I just recently switched over to the Trijicon RMR to run it through a similar set of trials to give a better side-by-side comparison. Many folks have approached me regarding these findings and as soon as I’m done I will be posting them up for folks. The bottom line is I see only better things coming from this mini-red dot sights. Now, that their popularity has started to blossom RDT&E will really get moving and we will continue to see improvements in these platforms much like we saw with the red dot sights for our rifles. More to come on this subject so stay tuned.
We started off with our normal set of skills assessments, but sensing everyone was pretty damn cold standing there for the briefs I opted to add a little heart pump. So, we started off by sprinting from the targets to the 25yd line to start the drill. I think it worked to warm up the bodies and it also put a bit of stress on some students. While we love running various types of training modifiers in all of our classes we might have to give this one some serious thought for the future. We just brought on line a great program that really emphasizes the balance between technique and strength so I cannot wait to see this program hit mainstream. Look for it next year about once a quarter and for right now it will be exclusive to the Central Texas area.
We got busy with our preparatory marksmanship drills and something I noticed in one student, the one who I happened to be demoing with was an incredible clinch he was performing. This clinch was so powerful it would totally disrupt his shooting and make it very difficult to be consistent. There are a lot of things that cause the clinch, but the most common cause is just prior to squeezing the trigger the entire hand squeezes at incredible speeds. You can actually see it happening just prior to the recoil. Sometimes it is very noticeable and other times it is less, but either case both produce errant shots. A good first approach towards solving this problem is to double up on your ear protection. Sometimes the body is flinching because it is afraid, while not technically afraid, the body is responding to a fear response. The loud sound can be a cause so the double ear protection can help. For those who have an even deeper aversion about the only thing that will help is a self-acknowledgement. Once you can recognize the clinch occurring and eliminate all other possible causes it helps to start looking inside. I wouldn’t get too wrapped around the axle, it can be very unsettling and once you address it and move on things tend to get a lot better from there. When working with a first time student who had never fired any weapon before she had a strong aversion at first, but once she identified it she quickly dealt with it and from there her gains were impressive. A good model to follow for everyone.
This class had many returning students who have worked on their professional development and are some of the best shooters I have seen. I think a lot of that is attributed to their dedication and willingness to train, but one in particular commented on how a drill we run called a “full extension press” really helped him. The drill has you slowing down your movement speed so that once you have fully extended the pistol and the sight has settled on target the shot breaks. A lot harder than it sounds, but so instrumental in good combat marksmanship. The student has to be able to drive the gun to the target and not just the target, but the specific point they wish to hit. From there, they need to extend the gun smoothly with no wasted motion so it comes to rest on that point. From there, they need to be transitioning to their front sight making micro corrections and lastly they need to stage the trigger. These makes up the fundamental components for using your first, best sight picture. It also forces students outside of their comfort zone by ensuring they are working smoothly and not fast, then precise with their movements and not sloppy. All around one of my favorite drills, truly a solid drill.
As the day worn on we never really saw the sun, it stayed right below the tree line and as it started to dip behind us we started to feel that chill in the air again. As we started working on weapon manipulations folks wearing gloves found cycling the slide versus depressing the slide lock was much more reliable once their hands were cold and not functioning at optimal conditions. A major lesson learned here is the reality of the world you live in, for most of the folks in this region it is cold half the year so wearing gloves at times is not optional, it is pretty much mandatory. It is hard to come back from cold hands and starting out with cold hands doesn’t help with your speed or precision of movement. Is it the fastest technique, I think that is too subjective? One thing I know is many folks who are opposed to this technique seldom validates their techniques in inclement weather. I typically see folks in videos under beautiful conditions quickly bemoaning how it is slower and not valuable. Hmmm, that is curious indeed.
The lighting conditions went from light to dark literally in the blink of an eye so we had to hustle to get things done on time. Being able to adjust the schedule is pretty important and doing so on the fly even more so. We broke for the day and would have to start the next day slightly later in the morning.
As I’ve mentioned before the Sig Academy is really the only game in town for the NE and they are constantly battling everyone from neighbors to anti-gun news reporting so they do have to keep the end game in mind and that sometimes means adjusting start times to accommodate the few who might complain. The funny part about the noise complaint is that within a stone’s throw there is a drag racing track and I’ve heard those things going all day. Wonder why that noise is more tolerable than sporadic gunshots…again things that make you go hmmmm.
TD2 started off and the weather was still brisk. One of the first drills we had to preform was ammunition management. Again, with cold hands or gloved hands juggling multiple magazines can be problematic. We teach a rifle version for tactical reloads for just this reason. Speed is really not a component; if speed was of the essence then you probably shouldn’t be doing any ammunition management in the first place.
We worked some movement drills and I liked what I was seeing. During zone drills folks try to wait for that perfect sight picture instead of just running with their FBSP, which is way more reliable on the move and in general. I know it is frustrating, but not getting the shots within the prescribed course of fire because you are waiting for the sight picture to be perfect is not the right choice. You have to accept a degree of chaos in all of this, that is the real lesson here. There will be plenty you cannot control, getting that sight on target quickly and prepping the trigger at the same time is your best insurance policy. That and letting go of the notion of a perfect sight picture.
I really liked the effort we were seeing in everyone, I thought for sure we were going to have several students that would make it down on the speed drill. Just about each one stared their own demons down and lost. I could literally see them either second-guessing themselves or trying to think their way through the drill. I know this because I can do this myself. You have to trust your training and let your body do what it knows how to do. Most of the time we are our own worst enemy and getting over this obstacle can be huge for many.
Again, we ran out of light a bit earlier than we might have wanted, but it was ok as we still got a lot accomplished.
We started TD3 at the indoor range, which was very nice. It does pose a problem of artificial light, which can be tough for many. The light not coming down on the front sight at some of the different yard lines can make it difficult to confirm. I think it is important folks spend a little time on an indoor range so they can see the difficulties of lighting conditions. This is also a well-lit range so it is probably a bit easier than some other locations.
We worked some strong hand only drills and again many folks are surprised by our take on the technique, don’t make it any more complicated than it already is. I am amazed at what a dis-service we do by teaching poor strong hand only technique. During the last test of the day there are a few rounds fired SHO, but I had about 3 or 4 students who defaulted to their first learned technique. That will take some time to replace with better technique.
We also ran our stress course at the indoor range; it was nice to have the controlled environment. It is a pretty simple drill and one that we use to establish a baseline. I know that physical fitness is not on everyone’s mind, but it needs to be at least floating around in the grey matter. The skill depreciation with mild physical stress is pretty big and it only gets worse as we get older. I strongly suggest that folks take a more vested interest in their physical fitness for obvious reasons. It will pay off big time down the road. It doesn’t have to be fancy, time consuming or costly. You just need to be committed to a program of sorts and go for it. Time is money, I know that, but when people ask me what they can do to be a better shooter. A lot of times I will give them a gun based response, when I should be telling them to get in better shape.
By the time we moved to the outdoor range to finish up the class the weather turned near perfect. It was gorgeous for sure. We ran several other drills and then got setup to run the El Presidente for their marksmanship badges. We had a few returning marksman, which is always nice, but that was for the rifle. Now was time to earn your keep with the pistol. We had a boatload of students qualify! I love the look on some of their faces when I called out their name, priceless. For many, that drill was the best they shot during the whole class. Why, still working on it, but it was nice to be able to award so many out this go around. We also had a near perfect run, but it was pretty damn close, but in the end 1 point away from a perfect run. Better luck next time, I’m sure. We setup for the final test and saw a lot of great scores, a few disqualifications, but overall huge improvement for everyone across the board.
At the end of the class, the staff wanted to know if I would be interested in more visits per year, to which I said hell yes. If I can fit them into the schedule we will gladly return as many times as we can. I highly recommend that you support this organization if you can by coming out and taking classes. Their staff is top notch, great teachers and students. Then I also encourage you to check out their new ProShop, that place was kick ass! They really have it going on there with tons of SWAG and some really good kit. We will definitely look forward to our future visits.
Overall the class was a huge success and we look forward to future programs. Please do not hesitate to contact us for clarification on any points or comments.