COMBAT FOCUS SHOOTING: PISTOL
Long version of Kurt Liske's comments (Posted on Eighteen Zulu, LLC's facebook page).
I enrolled in a recent Combat Focus Shooting: Pistol course hosted by Cedar Valley Outfitters and Eighteen Zulu, LLC. We had a total of eight students in my class. Experience levels ran the full spectrum, everything from veterans and law enforcement officers down to a young 19 year old who had literally never fired a handgun before. Our initial safety briefing was very thorough, running through everything from a plan of action should we have a training accident, all the way up to how to interact with 9-1-1 dispatchers and the fact that should it be needed our range had enough room to land a Medevac helicopter. Instructors took the vital information: range name, location, etc. and wrote it on a target and placed it in a holder alongside the firing line. The reason being, should there be a training accident any one of us could quickly and accurately relay the critical information first responders need to get us help. I thought this was a nice touch that showed a lot of forethought on our instructor's part. As the day went on, it became very clear the instructors had indeed put a lot of thought into their material and this was just one of many examples of that.
After completing the safety briefing we moved to the firing line. Stance, grip and so on were reviewed or tweaked for each student. We started with the basics but progressed at a pretty quick pace, all the while stopping to review why we were being taught the particular methods we were learning. Everything had a reason, and those reasons were all made abundantly clear. By lunch we had progressed through shooting from a high ready stance, to mag changes and malfunctions to drawing from a holster. All shooting was done from approximately 6 to 18 feet from the target.
As shooters we were pushed to get at least 3 to 5 rounds on target as quickly as possible. The instructors (Mike Mcelmeel and Ernie Traugh) made it clear throughout the day that they didn't want to see super tight groups. Our targets were what I'd call a modified silhouette created by the I.C.E. training program. There are no 8, 9, X or scoring rings, but rather an 8 inch box which served as our main focus. This box not surprisingly corresponded with the silhouette's center mass. Anything inside this box was considered a good hit, anything outside, a miss. Group size meant nothing as long as your rounds were inside the box. Shooters were constantly pushed to shoot fast but no so fast that their rounds strayed outside the box. The rationale being that if you're in a true life-or-death situation rounds on target trumps super tight groupings.
After lunch the instructors carefully introduced movement to our shooting regime. The combination of drawing and moving is where, statistically speaking, most gun owners are injured. All of our movements were walked through dry before introducing the gun and everyone was well aware of what was going on around us. At no point did I feel unsafe during any of this. If I or anyone else did feel unsafe we were encouraged in the strongest possible manner to yell STOP which was an immediate ceasefire/hard stop for everyone on the range.
Once movement was introduced and incorporated the drills truly became fun. Straight forward, lateral, 360 degree movements, all were in play. I won't give away the details, but the afternoon included a phenomenal individual drill involving constant movement, multiple targets and commands specifically designed to confuse you. This was simultaneously humbling, a lot of fun and immensely valuable. All told, I shot nearly 700 rounds over the course of the day.
Ultimately I walked away much more confident in my abilities and more importantly much more prepared to effectively use my firearm should the unfortunate need ever arise. One of the things I really appreciated most about this course was the fact that at no point were we told "Well, that's just the way you're supposed to do things." Whenever I or any other student had a question about something -- why we reload this way, why this method is used to clear malfunctions, why we're shooting at these distances, etc., etc. -- the instructors had well thought out and reason based responses, often pointing back at hard data as proof. This well thought out approach also translated into what was expected of us students. Being a gun owner and Permit to Carry holder is a monumental responsibility. We owe it to ourselves, our loved ones and everyone around us to be able to react rationally and not just make things up as we go.
During a debrief each student was asked to share their thoughts about the day. Each and every person said they walked away a better shooter. Something I consider remarkable given the makeup of our class. It's easy to expect the novice 19 year old to improve. But when the military vets and the law enforcement guys in the group start talking about how this exceeds even their training I'd say that's noteworthy for multiple reasons.
Overall I'd describe this as a thinker's course, which at the end of the day is exactly what I want people who carry a gun to be: thinkers.
~ Kurt Liske