During a hot August weekend in Calera, Alabama, I had the opportunity to go to Double Tap Training Grounds and participate in the Home Defense (CQB) Force-on-Force class with Chase Jenkins of Talon Defense. Per usual, I'd like to break out an After Action Report of my take-aways from the course and provide feedback for both the instructor as well as future potential students.
Day 1- Angles: They are ever-present, and always changing
I arrived at Double Tap about an hour early and prepped my gear. This would be my first experience running the new HK VP9, and I will write a separate review on it as well. I tried to run a minimalist setup for this course for two reasons:
- The forecast called for miserably hot weather
- Chase's courses are usually fairly rough on gear
I had been assured that this course would be less abusive on our gear, and that turned out to be true. Still, I was already plenty warm and so the less I had on me, the less weight I would have to carry around. We started out in the classroom and began with our safety brief. Usually this is the most boring part of training, but with Chase it is always comical, entertaining, and enlightening.
Safe Shooters, Not Safe Environment
Chase provided us with a similar version of the safety briefing that he usually provides. He gave us examples of why we do certain things in certain ways and also discussed some of the training flaws that had developed into industry standards because of flat-range environments. He even breaks out some of the common "Gun Safety Rules" and talks about their inherent downfalls. Some examples below:
"Don't put your finger on the trigger until you've made the decision to fire." We've all heard it. Admittedly, I've taught it to students who come to my courses. And in just a few brief sentences, Chase has a way of making you both laugh at yourself and slap yourself in the forehead. He uses "Doc" as his example... "If Doc busts in the room right now with a gun in his hand and is yelling that he's going to kill me, and I have my gun in my pocket with my hand on it, do you think I've already made the decision to fire? Obviously, I have... But should I have my finger on the trigger yet? Obviously not, because the gun is still in my pocket."
"The gun is always loaded." Chase explains: "yeah, but guns aren't always loaded. And when we know they're not loaded, we start handling them differently. And every time we handle a gun, that's a training repetition. The mind doesn't distinguish between good and bad habits- it just files them away as possible solutions for gun handling. When a high-stress environment arises and it's time to go to guns, the brain will search its filing cabinet for a solution to the problem. I don't want there to be a bunch of bad solutions in there with the good ones. Therefore, nevermind the idea that the gun is always loaded. Instead, let's use proper gun handling skills at all times."
In short, Chase takes a significant amount of time reiterating all of the ways and reasons that we should strive to create safe shooters instead of the flawed mentality of creating a safe range.
On June 10-11, 2017, I had the opportunity to participate in the Vechile Defense / Counter-Ambush (Handguns only) course by Talon Defense and hosted by Sparrow Defense. I've trained with Chase Jenkins (Talon Defense) in the past and have written AARs for both the Dark Gunfighter and C2- Fightin' and Fixin' courses. This course was a 2 day, handgun only, and daytime only version of the Dark Gunfighter course. Per usual style, I'll break down the events of the course and then end with the "The Good, The Bad, The Ugly" sections.
Keep in mind that this is not a beginner level class, and there was a requisite skill level in order to participate. The exercises that are outlined in this AAR will at times be intentionally vague so as to not promote exercises that should be performed outside the supervision of a qualified instructor nor to disclose sensitive information regarding the instruction, participants, or course content.
Day 1 began with a safety briefing. If there is one thing that Chase Jenkins does superbly well, it's a safety briefing. It's informative, productive, and even entertaining. Chase uses humor to reinforce important points as well as set everyone at ease for the rest of the course. The safety briefing was thorough and emphasized that we will not be instituting a safe range, but rather we would all be safe shooters. The point being that we can't control the variables in our daily lives, but we can control our muzzle. Our muzzle is our responsibility. Period. End of discussion.
Over this past weekend, Shooting Strategies and Fair Weather Farms teamed up together to host John "Shrek" McPhee (aka Sheriff of Baghdad). This course specifically dealt with handgun marksmanship fundamentals and utilized the video work that John has introduced to the firearm industry. Though this is a one-day course, I was present throughout both days as a host to make sure that everything ran smoothly.
John and his wife stayed at the location with us, and arrived Friday after the NRA show. It was great to get the opportunity to spend the evening chatting with the two of them and getting to know them both a little better. Saturday morning, we went to the range and got everything set up. We began the day with a simple drill... 2 mags, both with 2 rounds in them. From a holstered position, we would draw and fire two rounds and then immediately perform a slide-lock reload and fire the other two rounds. John was filming this and from here we went straight to the TV to review what he had recorded.
I was surprised at how much information John could identify about our shooting from such a short drill- but as we came to understand, the video camera doesn't lie. John breaks down the film into four sections: stance; grip; presentation (draw); reload. He also emphasizes that these are in order of importance. The largest takeaway from this section was the amount of time wasted at the end of my draw stroke. I was out of the holster and at full presentation at about .84 seconds but wasted another .33 seconds prior to breaking the first shot. This lesson would be re-iterated multiple times throughout the course as John worked us more toward the ability to "shoot at zero" (to break the shot at the exact moment that we reach full presentation).
Today I had the pleasure of acting as an Assistant Instructor and Participant in a Vehicle Combatives course with Matt S., a good friend of mine who is an expert at protective services, CQB, and fighting in/around vehicles. We were joined by a group of four fairly experienced shooters, three of whom were civilians and one Law Enforcement Officer. The topics to be covered would be as follows:
- Entering/Exiting the vehicle
- Understanding the "clean" vs. "dirty" sides
- Understanding Cover vs. Concealment
- Shooting into the car vs. out of the car
- Ballistic Trajectory Deviations
- Movement in/around the vehicle
- Weapons Manipulations inside the vehicle
- Working around passengers
Communication with others
- Breaking Contact from Front and Sides
The course lasted for six hours and included a host of drills that continuously increased in their complexity with each evolution. We started with drawing from holster from a static position and placing two shots on our targets. This lead to a slide lock reload which began the discussion about understanding the importance of muzzle awareness and trigger finger discipline as we would soon be working with and around partners.