Toward the end of my second day wandering the frontiers of defensive gun culture at the three day Polite Society Tactical Conference, I could feel my brain getting full and my trigger finger antsy. As I have written before, there is a trade-off for me in participating in gun training classes rather than just observing them. In this case, it wasn’t that I thought I could learn something about gun training by participating rather than just observing. I just couldn’t observe any more.
At the conclusion of John Hearne’s “Performance Under Fire” seminar, I caught Gabe White (Pistol Shooting Solutions), who was scheduled to teach a four hour “Tactical Success with Technical Skills” live-fire course beginning at 8:00am Sunday. I told him I only had a Glock 43 with me, and asked if it would be hard to take his course with that gun and only three 6 round standard magazines. He said yes, it probably would be. I left the second day of TacCon a bit dejected. (Turns out this was a misunderstanding as he thought I was referring to his full course, but that is beside the point.)
At dinner that night, I told my companions from the event that I was going to shoot on Sunday but White said I probably shouldn’t with the G43. That’s when someone at the table said, “I have a spare H&K VP9 you can borrow.”
Oh, thank you, I replied, but I don’t have a holster.
“No problem,” he said, “I have a spare.”
Oh, thank you, I replied, but I’m left handed.
“No worries,” someone else chimed in. “I have a left handed holster for the VP9 you can use.”
Oh, thank you, I replied, but I didn’t bring enough ammo to shoot the class.
Soon enough, I had multiple offers of hundreds of rounds of 9mm ammunition with which to shoot the course.
In a matter of a minute or two, I went from dejected to fully armed and ready. Gun people are good and generous people, on balance.
The next challenge to negotiate was that the live fire courses at TacCon were all taught on a first-come, first-served basis, and many of the courses I observed the first two days had more demand than space. I needed to get in line EARLY for the 8:00am course. So I arrived before dawn at the Direct Action Resource Center (DARC) and was the second car waiting for the gate to open.
I got my spot in the class! And it’s a good thing, too. After the course was over I ran into Marty Hayes of the Firearms Academy of Seattle and Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Network (I am a member). He said to me in his characteristic booming voice, “It was good to see you on the line. I was beginning to wonder about you.”
Gabe White is a rising star in the gun training community. He is known for his technical proficiency (i.e., he shoots fast and well) and for shooting competitions using his everyday carry gun and gear. His four hour training block at TacCon was an abbreviated version of the main course he teaches, “covering the core technical skills of drawing, ready position, presentations, and shooting,” first in isolation and on demand.
I learned a couple of things shooting the course, one from White’s instructions, about moving my eyes first when transitioning from target to target. White never directly tutored me on the line, but I benefited tremendously from instruction by another up and coming trainer, Tim Chandler (FPF Training staff). Among other tips, Chandler told me to think of the trigger press as being analogous to how you press the brake pedal on a car when you want to stop quickly but not lock up the brakes. His specific words: “Like you want to stop quickly but not spill the big bowl of soup you have on the passenger seat.” That worked for me.
I also benefitted from a small but crucial tip from still another great instructor, Brian Hill (The Complete Combatant). Hill noticed an issue with my posture, which is quite visible in the photo above where I appear on the far left (in gray pants). Hill told me to get my posture more upright and to stabilize myself by tightening my core. This is something I continue to work on.
The tactical dimension of the course came in when applying the fundamental technical skills we were learning under different hypothetical circumstances. For example, if confronted with a threat a 3 or 5 yards, you might want to draw and shoot as quickly as possible. At 15 to 20 yards, you might want to draw and issue commands before shooting. If the threat is armed with a knife, that is one thing; if armed with a gun, another; and if armed with a phone, yet another.
I would be interested in seeing this tactical application drawn out in a full course.