February was our opening month for the 2019 training season and we couldn’t be more happy with our start. Our Essential Handgun class is our “first time shooter” and even a “not yet a shooter” course and is designed to make newcomers to this activity feel safe and comfortable as they transition from fear/anxiety over something new, to respect for something well understood. When we designed this course, we didn’t look at the basics: we started at our top level courses and worked our way back.
“Training you forward” is what we do in this course. We hope to see each student move on to get their concealed pistol license, and the intermediate/advanced training that comes after it. With this hope, we ensure that what we teach in the basic class integrates with what will be taught in the advanced classes. Have you ever taken an advanced class in something and spent the day de-programming bad muscle memory or understanding with something new? It happens to all of us at some point. And while that day wasn’t the growth opportunity it could have been while you de-programmed a bad habit, it did eventually get you to the next level. What if you never had bad programming to begin with?
“Begin with the end in mind.”Habit 2 of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People -Steven Covey.
In our Intermediate Handgun 1 course, we instruct multiple targets and multiple target zones (many bad guys and where to shoot at on them). Near the end, we add “no shoot” targets which may vary in consequence to engage the shooter in problem solving. In our Intermediate Handgun 2 course, we add in close contact and making-distance drills. This is MANY steps removed from the basics of Essential Handgun, but the standard rule of firearm safety “Be aware of your target and what is beyond it” as normally taught improves to “Be aware of your target, what is in front of it, and what is beyond it”. If you just got done palm-fisting bad guy’s nose as you make distance to shoot and your support hand is still in front of you, it’s a good idea to be aware of what is in front of your target so you’re not retrieving your own digits from the ground. Impressing these ideas initially adds to the student’s awareness of the safety topics, and prepares him for what lies ahead.
“Technique is the proficiency in which one executes fundamental movements to create application.“-Don Alley, Keep and Bear, LLC.
A couple definitions here…
Technique is the ability of a person to perform a task. It improves with practice, it needs renewal with lack of practice, and it gets sloppy when exhaustion sets in.
Application is the activity being performed. The drill. The martial arts sequence. The ‘subroutine’ needed to execute a particular objective.
Fixing technique is one of our primary activities in our Intermediate Handgun courses because technique was never effectively acquired earlier on. This is NOT a dig on any student. They are in class, and that makes them a rock star in our minds. But, it’s hard for someone to move and shoot when their shooting stance is business casual. It’s hard to get follow up shots when they’re leaning away from the pistol and not into it.
Essential Handgun lets us get these more optimized sooner so they can get plugged right in to the application. With a solid isosceles or fighting stance, moving and shooting is one less step (going from a rather undefined stance to a “oh, I have to move now?” stance, and then into a movable stance). Leaning into the stance slightly helps mitigate recoil which helps for faster follow up shots. Building these fundamentals in early is always the right thing to do to avoid relearning.
An AWESOME responsibility
We designed every aspect of Essential Handgun around our later courses. From terminology needed, function understanding of the firearm, some legalities of ownership, and more. Every slide is scrutinized with “how does this help our student’s understanding?”. Every slide is about them.
We love watching our students gain understanding and grow confident in their technique. We love watching the light bulb turn on as one idea leads to many possibilities or conclusions. We love watching them ingrain a safety mindset in how they operate and handle firearms, and we love the sense of empowerment they leave with. This is never self-righteous “I know about guns” smugness, but the solid reassurance that they accomplished something that was an anxiety for them pre-class.
Our joy is in their continued safety and accomplishment.