Review of Handgun I/II - 8/9 May 2010 @ CCJA

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  • Patrick

    MSI Executive Member
    Apr 26, 2009
    7,725
    Calvert County
    This is a two-fer times two: two classes taken by two people in two days. Call us efficient.

    The wife wanted to take a handgun class. Not just how to "use" one, but also how to fire one for effect. It was her idea (really); I just did the legwork finding a place to go. We were fortunate to find CCJA and attend their Handgun I/II courses.

    My wife was a complete newbie around guns. I taught her the basics on handling and safety, with significant emphasis on muzzle and trigger discipline. We've been to a few indoor ranges over the years and everybody called her a "natural" - she was shooting better an a 9mm on day one than most would in a month. She wanted to take some classes to learn not only how to use a gun, but how to fight with one. Her view was target practice is not the real world. This class was part of her birthday present.

    DAY ONE:


    Day one started in a classroom setting. She was immediately intimidated by her fellow classmates: a Marine with door-kicking experience in Fallujah; DHS personnel working on increasing skills; veterans of several services; armored cash carriers, etc. In comparison, she was a stay-at-home-mom with a two year old, armed with a diaper bag and a box of cookies.

    Our instructors for day one were Tom and Chris. This was obviously a Yin/Yang pairing: Chris is the laid-back operator to Tom's high-strung SWAT cop. It works.

    My wife followed all the classroom work easily, but it was all theory and she's a good student. One thing she learned in class: she is left-eye dominant even though she was right-handed. This was news to her. More on this later. Her nerves kicked up during the drive to the range. So far there had been zero "practical" training with a gun.

    Range time started with a review of safety - CCJA runs a "360 Hot" range. This means that guns are pretty much always loaded and ready to go, even during breaks. People behind the line might be loading mags and watching the people up front, but the guns on their hips are still "hot". This requires (and instills) a mind-set to keep your awareness up at all times.

    We started with "torture dots" -- little 1.5 inch circles on a piece of paper. We went right from the safety brief to the targets. This is where the wife started to get extra nervous -- from classroom to live trigger pull in one short drive. Please bear in mind that this is a no-brainer for pretty much anyone reading this review -- you are already "into" guns. But her experience was essentially nil at this point, so your "little" step was a big jump for her.

    She did fine. She took her time (a lot of time in some situations), but never lost sight of the only real important thing she needed to remember: safety first. This turns out to have been an issue for another student, but Tom closed that hole fast.

    Tom and Chris worked with my wife. They knew she was coming (I talked with Tom about her experience before signing up). Chris, in particular, spent a lot of time working with her one on one: grip, eye dominance, stance...you name it. At this point her frustration was not over the "newness" of the gun class, but rather a frustration to progress as fast as she knew she could. That was a big positive step up - from nervous about shooting to frustrated over her accuracy - all in about 60 minutes. Good on CCJA.

    Interesting finding for her: she is actually "cross-cross-eyed dominant": while her left eye might be dominant, she actually sees better and shoots better with her right. After two hours trying to shoot "left eyed", she said "Eff It" and went back to the right. Better. We theorize this might have something to do with the laser surgery she had years earlier.

    From afar, I knew things "clicked" for her about midway through the first range day: I glanced up at her shooting while I was loading mags and she was whipping through immediate action drills and getting back on target fast. The actual shooting was becoming secondary to the lesson at hand. Again: good on CCJA.

    Day one ended with her feeling comfortable with a gun. Prior to class, she was never afraid of the weapon...more like leery. By now she was comfortable and wanting to learn more.

    After dinner and some quick maintenance shopping (I left my shooting glasses at home and was using something I found in the car), we were back in the hotel. She spent about an hour and a half working draw, clearing and dry fire in our room.

    DAY TWO:

    The wife spent a half hour doing dry fire drills before packing it up for class. She had the details down.

    Classroom in the morning with a slightly different crew of students and some overlap from the previous day. Same types, though: lots of gun guys and one "mom-with-a-toddler". This time there was no apprehension on her part. Our instructor for the day was going to be Chris.

    On day two we did dry-fire drills in class. This was highly beneficial.

    Range time started earlier, and this time she had no concerns other than "keeping up". This day moved faster. Chris went from one drill to the next, each one building or adding a skill to the last. And my wife was keeping up.

    Chris's goal was to hand over skills and drills that you could take back and use to improve yourself. His eye was strong and he didn't let things slip. He listened to the experience of others (Riverine on this forum has real-world, recent experience that applied) -- no ego contest here. Chris's laid-back manner made a fast-paced run through a dozen drills seem paced - not hurried.

    The day ended with everyone wanting to do more. But shooting after 1700 on a Sunday is not nice to the neighbors. Chris stuck around to do dry-fire practice with anyone who could stay. Unfortunately we had to leave and relieve my mother-in-law from the baby.

    Overall:


    I learned a lot. My wife learned...well, most everything she knows about guns.

    Tom and Chris undid some damage I did to my shooting way back. Interesting to note that the three students with military pistol training all made some of the same mistakes the same way. And some of the things I was taught (on stance) are just outright wrong today. Lessons learned between then (my time in uniform) and now will benefit me today. Overall it is safe to say I let my skills and tactics degrade to a personally unsat level.

    For instance: I should have beat 97Vette in the shooting competition; as it stands I had to take second place on day one and third on day two (behind another MDS member Riverine). Next time, you bastards. Next time. ;)

    Likewise, Tom's demeanor changes depending on the shooter. This is a good thing, especially with several low to no experience shooters on day one (my wife was not alone). Tom modified his normal regimen and training to accommodate two women from a DHS contract that needed to learn shooting to re-qualify for their jobs. DHS has specific guidelines on everything from shooting to how to rack a slide -- Tom made sure to spend time doing it the DHS way. He also added more drills specifically geared to their qualification requirements. Everyone gained.

    The real accomplishment here was my wife. She went from zero to 60 in real short order. This could not have happened without Tom and Chris and a willingness on her part to learn fast. I did what I could before class, but the dynamics of life with a kid make it tough to do one-on-one during baby's naptime.

    Two instructors for Handgun I was a good thing. Not only was it a larger class, but it allowed Chris to work with my wife exclusively for more time than she thought she deserved. The worst part of the class for her was a concern she was slowing everybody else down -- again, she has standards and doesn't want others to suffer if she was behind. In the end I hope it worked well for all.

    Chris and Tom made sure to brief me on what she needed to work on, and how to do it. Their eye will feed my mine and hopefully result in better shooting for the two of us all around.

    Some advice (and ideas) to CCJA for future classes:

    This worked for my wife, partly because she is a "into the deep end" kind of person. Her standards are exceptionally high, especially when she is concerned. As a result, she works to demand constant improvement in herself. She also wanted to do well in front of me. I suspect some other complete newbies might not translate that initial nervousness into positive action -- as it stands she thrives on it.

    To that end, she thinks that early morning dry-fire in the classroom on day one is essential. Even for those with more experience, it sets the pace for the presentations.

    Likewise, we think there is a market out there for a "Level 0" handgun course. Her local friends are all professional women who did not grow up around guns. To a person, each and every one of them is insanely curious about her experience. Unfortunately, at least half of them would have melted under the pace of Day I.

    We think the trick is not to slow Handgun I (this would be unfair to others), but to occasionally offer a "Handgun 0" class - a complete introduction that modifies the classroom portion to put less emphasis on tactics and more time on dry-fire. The range portion could also be slowed somewhat and allow more shots on target with fewer drills - the goal being to "warm up" the new shooter and get some experience under the belt to breed comfort. This would be an intro to HG I/II.

    Post Training:

    I am a better shooter. The wife can now call herself a "shooter". She has a sudden interest in IDPA and ringing steel in the range I built in the back woods. She wants it expanded. For her.

    I'm shopping for steel. She's shopping for her first Glock.

    The Future:

    Fair warning: we'll be back.
     

    vette97

    Active Member
    Feb 9, 2008
    1,911
    Karroll Kounty, Marylandistan
    Excellent write-up. I enjoyed reading it! I guarantee with these skills and a lot of dry fire time, you will probably take this bastard on the next competition. :-) I work from home, so that's what I do during my down-time.

    Since I took one of Tom's classes before, I know what it's like to come in there overwhelmed. You're nervous, don't want to screw up, and yet feel like you're slowing everyone down. I think we all go through it the first time. This time, however, I felt comfortable enough to look down the line to see how others were shooting, after completing my tasks.

    I did exactly what you did the first time I shot there. I took the new stance, trigger control and sight focus skills to the range shortly after my last course and it made a huge difference in my shooting. I also got to see how your wife was improving, dramatically! I honestly came back home and had to share with my girlfriend about how your wife performed exactly how my girlfriend does at the range, starting on day 1, and how on day 2, she could put the same 9mm round through the same hole time and again. Credit to CCJA and your wife's motivation! I got to get my GF out there some time. I'm glad they don't get frustrated with the new shooters. Taking their time with them is important and I didn't feel like she slowed us down at all. If anything, it gave us time to see someone grow into a shooter right in front of our eyes.
     

    Patrick

    MSI Executive Member
    Apr 26, 2009
    7,725
    Calvert County
    I would seriously suggest the class to anyone comfortable with the absolute basics. Deep water insertion is something I wouldn't suggest for most. I wasn't worried about the wife -- I've seen her climb solid rock 100 ft. over pounding surf and slip...only to catch herself and climb higher. Her tiny size belies her ruggedness.

    She has some local friends who want to shoot. I think some of them are pretty tough...others, not so much. One is French Canadian and wears ballet slippers on hike. Then again, maybe that is pretty tough after all.


    Yes, my wife was overwhelmed for the first few hours. But Chris and Tom did good work and got her up to snuff fast.

    We'll probably spend a day outside this week, once the rain stops.
     

    Riverine

    Junior Member
    Feb 13, 2010
    47
    Falmouth, VA
    Suggestion: 3x5 cards. The cost, like totally, $.50 for 100 of them, instead of perhaps the same cost each for store-bought targets.

    Start @ 3yds, 5 rounds on the card. Get to that point consistently, do a walk-back to 5 yds, repeat. 7yds, same same. Etc. Slow fire at first, then work up to the point where it's 5 rounds on the card at any of those ranges using the flash-sight picture like what Chris had us doing on that last dot exercise. Same thing for multiple targets, just set up 2 or more cards far enough apart that you're forced to drive the gun to the new target and re-acquire.

    For BSA (Balance of Speed and Accuracy), you can get a lot of mileage out of 6" and 8" paper plates at the same distances you use cards. If you're getting 80% or so of your shots in side an 8" plate while shooting as fast as you can at a given distance, you're on the right track. Drop below that standard, dial it back on speed a bit. Repeat. That's what I was doing on that first iteration of rapid-fire steel, except I was going for a 4rnd/sec rate. Since I missed 3 of 10, I throttled back to closer to 2.5rnd/sec, and all 5 of those were within a hands-breadth of each other.

    Still helps to shoot something with a face on it every now and again, as it helps reinforce the idea that you aren't particularly likely to get randomly assaulted by office and picnic supplies. If you ARE, however, I need to know, so I can get some of the same drugs!
     

    kac

    Active Member
    Dec 9, 2007
    1,136
    My wife was the same way in the TacCarbine I course recently run. She had some physical as well as experience issues compared to some darn good shooters in the class (inlcuding vette) and moved from being extremely intimidated to definitely wanting to do it again, and telling me what kind of AR she wanted and what she wants on it!

    Tom and Mark were great working with her, and it was obvious how each different shooter was held to a different standard, which was great. They really focus on getting the best out of YOU which is different from what they can get out of the next guy.

    Chris is great, isn't he? His talent is extremely deep, and his quiet demeanor completely hides his ability. Great sense of humor, too.
     

    Patrick

    MSI Executive Member
    Apr 26, 2009
    7,725
    Calvert County
    @Riverine: thanks for the ideas. I do something like that with myself and paper plates. I string aircraft cable between trees and then hang steel paper clips (the heavy kind) top and bottom to get it attached and to reduce wind movement. Super cheap and easy.

    It was good meeting you in class. We'll need to hook up soon.

    @kac: Chirs is great. The wife really liked working with him. He got her further than she would have thought she could go. She wants to go back and take another class with him once she gets more trigger time. I think she's going to do the carbine class eventually. This time she'll be more familiar with it before she goes so she can hit the ground running.

    The wife has a play date with other moms this week. They are all going to quiz the hell out of her, I am sure.
     

    kac

    Active Member
    Dec 9, 2007
    1,136
    Talking about your wife shooting carbine, Ann says she wants to get a course going which is solely women. I think that would be great. Maybe we'll ask Tom to set one up later in the summer--probably need about 12.
     

    Patrick

    MSI Executive Member
    Apr 26, 2009
    7,725
    Calvert County
    I'm guessing a handgun course would get more women at first. But the wife would probably do a carbine course for women and bring some friends along.

    Not sure how many would have their own ARs though. Maybe some could borrow from the husband/boyfriend. But some of my wife's friends do not have them in the house at all. Most have at least a pistol that belongs to the SO.

    Both classes might be worth setting up, though. Maybe even a "couples class"? ;)


    EDIT: There is a nice looking spa directly across the hall from Tom's classroom. The wife was definitely intrigued by the combo options there. A "Dangerous Diva" weekender.
     

    Riverine

    Junior Member
    Feb 13, 2010
    47
    Falmouth, VA
    EDIT: There is a nice looking spa directly across the hall from Tom's classroom. The wife was definitely intrigued by the combo options there. A "Dangerous Diva" weekender.

    LOL I did something similar with my own Valkyrie. I got her spun up on the very basics, then backed off, slapped her on the ass to formal instruction with somebody other than me, followed by a spa day. I entitled it Warrior Princess Weekend on the card.

    In the Corps, it's simply referred to as "Jane Wayne Day." Lack of spa is made up for with full-auto and a HE rounds in heavier guns.
     

    kac

    Active Member
    Dec 9, 2007
    1,136
    I'm guessing a handgun course would get more women at first. But the wife would probably do a carbine course for women and bring some friends along.

    Not sure how many would have their own ARs though. Maybe some could borrow from the husband/boyfriend. But some of my wife's friends do not have them in the house at all. Most have at least a pistol that belongs to the SO.

    Both classes might be worth setting up, though. Maybe even a "couples class"? ;)


    EDIT: There is a nice looking spa directly across the hall from Tom's classroom. The wife was definitely intrigued by the combo options there. A "Dangerous Diva" weekender.

    Hey, I'm not laughing at all about the idea of a couples class. If there's a problem, from guys breaking into our house all the way to TEOTWAWKI, guess who my first shooting partner is? In fact, that's the genesis of why she went to TacCarb I.
     

    Patrick

    MSI Executive Member
    Apr 26, 2009
    7,725
    Calvert County
    Yeah, nothing more romantic than learning to clear your house together. Cannot wait for the munchkin to learn how to lock and load. She's only 2 though.

    So if we get enough "couples" together we'll have to have Chris and Tom do a special segment on "clearing your house naked." Although I'd prefer they stay clothed during the training.
     

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