Although I and my family have been fortunate not to have our health or finances disrupted too much by the COVID-19 pandemic, it definitely took a toll on my ability to travel for research and my own shooting. The latter was especially affected by the ammo shortage that accompanied the Great Gun Buying Spree of 2020+.
As necessity is the mother of invention, I learned some things about shooting and training over the past year that can be carried over into our post-pandemic times. This includes lessons from on-line classes conducted by the Liberal Gun Owners, pistol marksmanship simulator training with The Tactical Professor Claude Werner, and my old nemesis, dry fire practice.
In April 2020 I was supposed to attend a 2 day pistol and rifle training class with the Liberal Gun Owners at the Triple C Range in Cresson, Texas. When it was canceled, the LGO EO Randy Miyan arranged to have Ron Grobman of Tactical Fitness Austin (who was going to teach the in person classes) conduct a one hour pistol and one hour rifle class over Zoom.
Geared up as we would be for class — sans ammo, of course — we watched Grobman discuss the basics of pistol and rifle shooting. He also was able to watch us manipulate our guns on video and offer advice and feedback based on what he saw.
The class was much like what I experienced teaching my own classes online. It is not as good as teaching face-to-face, but it is certainly better than nothing. It gives the opportunity to train when one can’t get out of the house, and also allows training with someone who is not physically present without either party having to travel. Parallel to my Sociology of Guns class is being able to have people guest lecture in my class online (like Tiffany Johnson and Aqil Qadir, for example) without them having to come to Winston-Salem to be in class.
Compared to my pistols, I hardly use our AR-style rifles, so my familiarity with their manual of arms is much worse. I am awkward in my rifle handling skills to be sure. In the online class, not having to worry about working with a loaded gun was a huge benefit.
This benefit of working on the fundamentals of shooting without the distraction of live guns and live fire was also evident in an NRA Pistol Marksmanship Simulator Training course Sandy and I took with Claude Werner in June 2020. The Tactical Professor was good enough to teach us this course on our way home from The Complete Combatant’s range in Dahlonega (where we took their Entry Level Pistol Essentials course and I observed John Johnston’s Technical Handgun course).
Claude followed the NRA’s prescribed curriculum for this course, working through the PowerPoint slides which are familiar to those who have taken NRA courses in the past. He added his own elaborations and amendments as we went along. E.g., regarding “always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot,” he added the helpful practice of being able to see completely through the trigger guard with no trigger finger visible. For the slide on “index points of a proper grip,” he substituted his own pictures for the default NRA photos. For shooting position, he suggested that (following Matt Burkett) that “your feet should feel heavy,” which tends to put you on the balls of your feel.
Following the presentation, we used a SIRT pistol and an empty semi-auto to practice the fundamentals of shooting under Claude’s expert eye using targets set up on patio chairs in his backyard. As with the LGO online course, not having to worry about a 180 decibel explosion at arms length from our face allowed us to focus on other things we were trying to learn.
I think these short, non-shooting courses could be an excellent introduction for new shooters especially. I recognize that many longer courses begin with working the fundamentals via dry fire, but the reality that live fire will take place does hang over that work. Creating an entirely separate course could alleviate some of that anxiety.
Finally, sometimes necessity helps us to re-invent the proverbial wheel. To wit: Dry firing is the perfect activity to do when you cannot leave your house and have no ammo.
Earlier this month, we made up the LGO training course that was canceled last April. Because I did not want to be a burden on the class, I wanted to tune myself up before arriving. In addition to taking a private pistol and rifle lesson with Chris Cypert of Citizens Defense Research, I also visited the range twice and shot about 50 rounds each time. In between, these live fire sessions, however, I forced myself to do some dry fire practice. Drawing from concealment, establishing a solid grip, pressing the trigger without moving the sights on the pistol. Safety off, safety on with the AR.
It is definitely more fun to go to the range and fire off a bunch of live rounds, but the COVID experience and ongoing ammo shortage definitely taught me some lessons on how to be a better shooter when that isn’t possible.