AAR Combative Pistol L2 – Los Angeles, CA

Trident Concepts conducted a 3-day Combative Pistol, Level Two (CP2) class in Los Angeles, CA at the Angeles Shooting Range complex. The class consisted of mixed law enforcement and private citizens. Many of the class members were returning students from the same class we ran earlier this year. Our range was a bit small for the class size, but it worked out well and I liked the class size in the end. You couldn’t ask for better weather and because we were deep in the canyon, the only problem we really had was once the sun dipped below the mountains it got dark and cold…fast. Amazing how fast actually. One of the difficulties as a result was while it was still technically light outside, the shadows made seeing the sights a bit difficult for some. As a safety point, we had one student, a returning student, who had heart surgery and a defibrillator installed a few years ago. Only he failed to mention that to me until now. An interesting discussion and while I understand he didn’t want to be embarrassed it is far better to be cautious and brief the staff.

IMG_1839We saw a lot more problems in the class than we have in the past. This unfortunately had some negative effects on some and forced some improvisation on others. One student shooting a Sig P220 had a trigger return spring break and while he did have a spare pistol. He opted to replace the spring rather than use the spare pistol. Unfortunately, the installation had problems as once repaired the pistol still wasn’t functioning properly. Since we were racing the sun, I couldn’t take time to supervise the installation and had to press on with the drills. I kind of wish I had as the student couldn’t fix the pistol overnight and opted to withdrawal on the final day, which also affected another student who was traveling with him over a fairly good haul. So, while on TD2 we covered small parts inspections, maintenance intervals and repair kits, one thing I didn’t cover was field level maintenance such as replacing common or known issues. I cannot stress it enough how important it is to be able to work on your duty weapons. So, no sooner had we finished the small parts brief than shortly thereafter we had a M1911 go down hard. The recoil spring broke and was compressed on itself. There was no spring tension at all. Unfortunately, the student didn’t have a spare or spare pistol, well he did, but he didn’t have enough ammunition for the different model. Nobody else in the class had a spare so it looked as they he maybe out of luck. He decided to improvise and use a recoil spring to a Sig pistol. While I don’t recommend doing this, if you are down range you have to improvise so it was good to see him back on the line. During a break we talked and he mentioned how he had not heard about keeping round counts and replacing certain parts at intervals. Just glad it happened in class.

IMG_1847Another problem we saw had to do with the new Trijicon RMR mini-red dot sight. While I have a lot to say about them, that is for another time. I had a private instruction session for a student the day before and he would also be attending the 3-day class. The student had invested in outfitting his G-17 with an RMR, which worked intermittently. We kept having problems with it switching off while shooting. We replaced the batteries and still the same problem, so in an interest of eliminating variables we tried another battery with the same result. Luckily the student had a spare RMR so we opted to replace the unit and quickly zero. The slide cuts were so tight that we couldn’t get the new RMR to seat without some serious force and when we did, we had the same problems as the first. After replacing the batteries on the spare RMR we continued to have the same problems to no avail. We decided to press on using the backup iron sights and here is where we found some other compounding issues with mounting option. This setup had the rear sight behind the RMR. I prefer the BUIS to be in front of the MRDS, it provides some degree of protection and puts the BUIS on the same plane of sorts. Because of the perceived parallax through the RMR the rear sight is crystal clear, but the front sight is very difficult to pickup. Maybe for a few rounds one could make due, but if you have a defective unit like we did it sucks big time. Highly recommend having the rear sight in front of the MRDS no matter the brand. The student did contact the manufacture during a break and I was pretty happy to hear their response, which was pretty much it sounds defective and send it in for service. It didn’t much help us at the time or during the class, but comforting the manufacture is going to make sure the units work.

IMG_1865We had a brand new Glock 17 with the trigger retaining pin that kept sneaking loose. Luckily it would snag on the holster so the student was aware of the problem, but it was bothersome to know it kept working loose during the class. These small pins are not commonly carried in my small parts repair kit, but after the class I’m going to pick some up for sure.

Another problem I felt we saw in this class had to do with the sighting systems many student had chosen to employ. Most had to do with point of aim/point of impact issues. I felt that a good majority of the students with sight problems had a solid understanding of basic marksmanship. They were able to produce good enough shot groups to see they had practical ability in the marksmanship department. However, the shot groups were not centered and pretty much all over the place. We had one student who had an elevation issue that was resolved by swapping out the front sight to adjust the point of impact. That seemed to work and definitely improved his hit ratio, though he would still have to use a slight hold in order to achieve consistent hits in the target zone. While better than what he started with, still not the best solution. Other students had windage issues that were also easily resolved with a sight pusher. A few students had mixed various types of sights from different manufactures. I find that this doesn’t produce the best results and it is far better to stick with one manufacture. Another problem was while there was some great new sight options out there that help increase visual acuity of the front sight, they also made it difficult to shoot accurately at distance. The over powering sight sometimes confused the student into selecting it instead of the top of the front sight to achieve successful and consistent hits at distance.

We started out TD1 with our standard safety brief and range orientation. We would have a large class and the firing line would be a bit tight at times so we wanted to make sure that safety was well briefed and understood. There were a few pieces of hot brass that found their way into shirts and collars, but everyone handled the situation very well, maintaining muzzle discipline as other students helped to remove the hot brass. I love that about this job, you meet some of the best people, perfect strangers and you put them on the firing line together and they become the best of friends. That is definitely one of the perks to this job and one I cherish.

IMG_1861We went through the weapons manipulations drill and checked out everyone’s gear and equipment, many of the students were returning students or students with a solid understanding of the art so that is always a good thing. From there we knocked out the skills assessment and this class did very well, all high scores and I made the decision to forgo preparatory marksmanship drills and jump right into the basic marksmanship drills. They definitely did well, but one of the problems that haunted a lot of students was trigger control so not sure that was the best call. We worked on our progressions through the various isolation drills and we spent a good deal of time explaining proper posture and biomechanics. You could see a bunch of them had some bad habits in this area, but most cleaned it up really quick and you could see the benefits down the road. I mention that a lot of my job is correcting bad habits from students and even other instructors. I use to get pissed off because I wanted to be so much further along in the curriculum, but then I realized my expectations were a bit unrealistic. Now, we take the time to really establish correct fundamentals and then just rep them out. While we had to fight the waning sunlight, we managed to stay on schedule and get a lot of rounds down range. Part of the development of good combat fundamentals is the understanding of mental toughness. Staying focused on the task at hand while facing adversity. High round counts allow the opportunity for the student to practice and perfect their mental toughness. They have to dig deep to really focus on all the mechanics. Shooting is nothing more than a carefully orchestrated series of movements, that if not done correctly or the proper sequence just comes out bad. I had a student comment about how fatigued their brain was at the end of the day. I totally understand that feeling and it tells me they were working hard to achieve success, a good sign.

We covered the various ready positions and a few good side bar conversations regarding the high ready. The biggest question was why is there such an aversion, hard to say, but I feel the majority stems from misunderstanding and myth. My purpose is to mainly give the historical perspective, the operational effectiveness and then provide the opportunity to practice and make informed decisions on your own. It was a good conversation and I’m glad we had it, though it did take a bit longer than I might have wanted. One thing I saw in a few students was the overwhelming need to scan. This is a major pet peeve of mine because most don’t do a good job of scanning in the first place and they are so quick to try and scan or look cool doing it they sacrifice their marksmanship. In some cases it completely compromised the follow-through process, which lead to trigger management issues, which lead to missed shots. It is a slippery slope that is easy to loose your footing. You have to be able to prioritize the learning and a post shooting assessment or scan is not quite as important as the marksmanship skills necessary to get there in the first place. We progressed to draw stroke drills and you could see some very clean draw strokes from a good majority of the class. I liked the nice and smooth movements that many students demonstrated. The bad news was when we started to add some speed we started to see some poor draw strokes. I told one student that the speed of the movement is subordinate to the precision of the movement. You have to drive the firearm to the target so that it comes to rest on the precise aiming point. Verify the sights then squeeze the trigger, sounds easy enough, but so many opted for fast and imprecise movements that ended up costing them more time than they thought. Since the sights didn’t settle on the aimpoint they had make adjustments, which cost them in time then in an effort to make up that time, they slap the trigger producing a miss. It is hard to see the chain of events there or why they happen, but the diagnostic drills help us to sort it out and I can almost tell who is going to have this problem by watching their draw stroke early on.

We have had some problems lately with folks relying on slamming the magazine into the magazine well in an effort to cycle the slide by bumping the slide stop. Some will comment how reliable this technique is; yet I routinely see it fail to release the slide. I have even seen students attempt to spank the magazine multiple times to release the slide. It is not a design feature, it is a design flaw and should not replace cycling the slide manually by fully retracting the slide at the slide serrations or hitting the slide stop button to release the slide. The bottom line is this is not the type of technique one wants to build into their technique. Sure, it may seem at first glance to be an effective technique, but the reliability really comes into question once things take on a more dynamic tone and you start adding things like movement, positions and working at night.

A lot of student’s struggled with the time drills, mainly because they were getting to wrapped up in how much time they had. The par time is not the key; the key is getting your hits. Most folks have no idea how much time they really need to guarantee shots so putting them on the clock and the first thing they do is change the priority from accuracy to speed then subsequently miss the shot. The best advice I can give them is to ignore the timer, focus on the precision requirements for the shot. Learn what you need to see to guarantee the shot then work at compressing that time with practice. If you immediately try to make the times, it is more on luck than skill. We are not training to be lucky, we are training people to be skilled. It is not easy and there are no shortcuts, hard work, good instruction and lots of practice is the path to success.

IMG_1859We finished up TD1 with some more precision drills then we called, actually the sun dipping called it for us, but we managed to get through the curriculum. A large reason was the class was made up of seasoned students who were well prepared and worked well together, always nice to teach in those conditions.

TD2 started out with some diagnostic drills and again we saw some of the sight issues. Some were being dealt with through gear modification/exchange others had to wing it almost. I don’t like “Kentucky Windage” as a shooting method, but some were so frustrated they were experimenting with it. While this may appear to fix the problem, it is only temporary and long-term fixes are more in depth and complicated. We got right into movement and everyone enjoys the movement drills, including myself. You have to trust that first best sight picture when you are moving. It will be money for you if you do and then you see big jumps in your technique. I said in the class that the biggest difference in performance between someone with basic marksmanship and combat marksmanship skills is their ability to reliably employ a first, best sight picture and trigger management. Folks will do just about anything to make the hit to the point of substituting technique with some form of snake oil remedy. Unfortunately, any positive effect is only temporary, you really have to deconstruct your technique and work out the bad habits. It isn’t as much fun at times, but you can see it happening on the firing line. Folks will gradually see the light as their hit ratio improves. It seems we see the biggest improvement after the movement drills and I would guess it has to do with using that first best sight picture.

The afternoon we worked on multiple threats and some more tests. I could start to feel the onset of some type of cold. I felt in the morning when I woke up, but by the end of the day it was at its peak. I was shivering almost uncontrollably and could feel a fever brewing. We did manage to get our day done despite my condition and the class was very gracious. Once we got on the road home I pretty much hit rock bottom and decided to push the start time back by an hour to try and get some more rest. I literally ingested as much meds as I safely could then passed out. While certainly not 100% I was good enough to finish the class and it was interesting to see the level of focus that I had to apply. With a body not running on all cylinders the demos for the new subjects were pretty challenging. I have to say, it was good lesson on muscle memory. Simply relying on the correct technique that had been programed for so many years paid off.

Once we were in full swing of TD3 I started to feel a little better and I do mean a little. The morning strong hand only drills helped to identify some more shooting errors. It is always good to keep current on all the core skills and strong hand only is definitely one to practice. We have included this year in the CP2 class one of our physical training baseline drills. Student goes through this as we continue to collect metrics on human performance as it relates to shooting. Very good stuff and I was very happy to see my good friend and fellow warrior take the prize on both runs. The first run is more of a familiarization and the second run is where we see folks working the drill hard. I love it and it is good to see how you stack up. We have collected baselines for this drill for a while now and it is a lot of fun and I see it only getting better.

IMG_1884-764x1024We continued to progress through the curriculum up until lunch then in the afternoon we opted to push the Jacob’s ladder from 25 yards to 50 yards. I know folks get all bent out shape when we start talking about distance, but marksmanship is marksmanship simple as that. The first runs were a familiarization and we saw some great performances right away. Some struggled and back at these distances the slightest training scar will produce a miss.

We ran through a few more school drills then got ready for our Marksmanship Drill, the El Presidente. I might not have done a very good job at explaining the big picture since we had so many returning students and that was my fault. The bottom line is we highly encourage anyone who qualifies to attempt to improve their ranking. We had one student who had previously qualified and unfortunately he failed to qualify this go around so he lost his badge. We have had 8 students come back through the classes this year who have qualified and opted to requal to improve their rankings. Of the 8, 4 requalified and of the 4, 1 improved their ranking. It is not easy that is for sure, but if it was easy then everyone would be walking around with them. I don’t want that to overshadow the fact that we added two more marksmen to the club so I will look forward to seeing them requal next year.

We got setup for our final test and the whole class put in a solid performance. The class was a high scoring class and despite having several folks fail to complete the class, we had several who passed the class and received their certificate. We had some great points put out in the debrief and with the sun fading on us we closed out another great year of training. I have to say, each year gets better and better. I know we are looking at troubled times, but I am somewhat uplifted by the participation we have seen both from new students and veteran students. The bottom line is your personal safety is your personal responsibility. The law is in place to punish those who would break the law primarily and we hope the existence and punishment prevents the law from being broken in the first place. The problem with that notion is that it only applies to those who would obey the law and it means very little to those who are indifferent to our laws. I would like to close out this after action report and the year with a simple quote from Edmund Burke,

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

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