Sunday, October 30, 2011

Reflections On A Training Class

One of my goals for the year was to take a training class. The abbreviated class offered by Rangemaster's Tom Givens at the Lucky Gunny Memorial Day Blogger Shoot was good. However, it was not a full-blown class but rather an appetizer. So when Sean Sorrentino said he was pulling together a training class for North Carolina gun bloggers, I signed up immediately - and I am so glad that I did.

The class was offered by TigerSwan at their range just outside of Fayetteville, North Carolina. I think TigerSwan has flown under the training radar because the bulk of their work is with military and law enforcement clientele. It hasn't gotten the same press that more famous schools like GunSite or Thunder Ranch have received. However, if my introductory pistol class was an indication of the quality of the training received, it should.

I am not a world-class shooter and I have never even shot an IDPA club match. In all honesty, I am a mediocre shooter at best. That said, by lunchtime I was not only hitting a B-8 target at 25 yards in timed rapid fire (5 shots in 20 seconds times four) but was getting 20 out of 20 on the target. Even better, five of those 20 were in the black. This was with a stock Ruger SR9. It shows what quality instruction can bring out of a shooter.

Sgt Major Brian Searcy, USA (Ret)
The lead instructor was TigerSwans' President and COO Brian Searcy who had spent 16 out of his 23-year Army career with 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta aka Delta Force. He was the unit's Operations Sergeant Major and ran their pistol training program. He also had extensive experience as both an operational sniper and in sniper training. In terms of qualifications, skills, and experience, Brian is like Larry Vickers - another trainer and Delta Force veteran - but without the TV exposure. Brian's assistant for this class was Paul whose last name I never caught. Paul, like Brian, had served in both the Army Special Forces and Delta Force.

Neither Brian nor Paul took the drill instructor approach to this class. Rather they showed us how it should be done, made adjustments to our shooting style, and offered quiet critiques. They also offered lots of encouragement.

The training itself is built around the fundamentals - grip, stance, target picture, breathing, trigger pull, and follow-through. Their goal was help us learn what it took to produce a single, well-aimed shot and then build from there. George at Newbie Shooter blog who went through the class with me has a good description of this process in this post.

One of the things I've noticed in retrospect is that much of the training emphasized an economy of motion. For example, in their draw sequence, instead of holding your weak hand flat against your chest, you were taught to hold it with your fingers spread and wrist cocked towards the target. This puts the weak hand in the position to complete the two-handed grip much quicker. Another example was we were encouraged to use our pistol's slide release after we reloaded instead of the "slingshot method". Again, it is quicker and gets you on target faster. When you consider what Brian and Paul did in their former lives, you begin to appreciate how these little small changes could make a huge difference down the road.

As the class wound down, Brian encouraged us to devote 10 minutes a day to dry fire practice. Building the muscle memory serves to make many parts of the shooting process an unconscious reaction so that you can concentrate on the shot and the target. A couple of days after I got home, I received follow-on tips and drills from Brian to help us build on what we learned in the class. Not only was this a nice touch but it showed a commitment to helping us grow as shooters even after the class was over and done.

In conclusion, I would recommend without any reservations training with TigerSwan. They know how to shoot and, more importantly, they know how to teach.

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