Tuesday, November 20, 2012

On The Range #79: Way of the Gun Intro to Performance Pistol

Over the last year or so I've been seeing and hearing about a new gun school in Alabama.  I've been very interested in getting more firearms training but costs/availability of instructors in my general area has been a big problem.  After doing a little looking the new place seemed to fit the bill and I decided to get my feet wet.  This past Saturday I attended a pistol course at Mossbranch Shooting Range in Anniston, AL offered by Frank Proctor, owner and lead instructor for Way of the Gun.

Before I get into the actual course I want to talk a little about Frank Proctor and his philosophy for Way of the Gun.  Frank is a US Army veteran with almost 20 years of service, over a decade of which was in SOF.  He's trained numerous DOD personnel in a variety of combat disciplines and served his country in the conflicts in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  In 2007 he jumped into competitive shooting and now holds the rank of Grand Master in limited division (USPSA) and Master/SSP in IDPA.

Frank's training is performance oriented.  "Whether in competition or combat, the guy who scores the most points fastest wins."  His training focuses on shooting fast and accurate.

My personal opinion of Frank is that he is a competent and efficient trainer, and a tremendously experienced and capable shooter.  He's approachable and easy to communicate with, has a great sense of humor, and lacks the off putting ego that seems to be a hallmark of a lot of trainers out there.

So, to the course.

The course was to begin at 8:30AM and end at 4:30PM.  Required equipment was pistol, belt holster, two magazine holders, three magazines, ear and eye pro, 1000 rounds of ammunition, snacks, water, etc.

As we arrived Frank introduced himself and handed us all a swag bag.  I can't fault the man for knowing the necessity of marketing and branding when it comes to a successful firearms training business.  People want flash and dash and Frank will give it to them with a shrug and a laugh.

 I'm a sucker for this stuff, but Frank has much more to offer!

We started the day promptly at around 8:30 with a safety brief and short synopsis of what we could expect for the day.  The safety brief was short and sweet as you were expected to have safe gun handling skills before signing up for the course:  Don't break the four rules.  If you AD/ND you're done.*

We started out slow with demonstrations of grip and stance and detailed explanations of what you were trying to accomplish and why.  Frank put a lot of things in terms of math and explained the nuts and bolts.  I really liked this because I'm a detail person.  Don't just tell me to do it, tell me why I'm doing it.  It helps it sink in.

We moved into some dry fire practice and Frank moved up and down the line giving individual instruction and correction where necessary.  Afterwards we moved on to live fire.

Most of our live fire shooting was done in strings of three to five shots at 8.5x11 targets on USPSA cardboard targets.  The goal was to shoot as fast and accurately as possible.  We'd start out by firing a baseline and then pushing it, and then dialing back when things went off the rails.

We progress from there to adding index cards in order to work on shooting multiple targets of various size with the paper sheet size target at center mass and an index card at head and pelvic area.  We would shoot three as fast as possible at the center mass target and then transition to the index cards and have to slow down a bit.  I'm happy to say I was pretty good at this!

Next came steel.  I love/hate steel.  It gives instant feedback but occasionally shoots back.  Let me say there is nothing like shooting fast and accurate on steel.  We did this shooting from 7, 10, and 15 yards to learn how fast we could accurately engage the targets at varying distance.

It was around this point we took a lunch break.  When we came back we started working reloads, malfunction clearance, and movement.  Frank taught us a reload drill that I really like and will be incorporating into my at home practice:  You load the gun, do a tactical reload with an empty mag so you have a round chambered on an empty.  From ready, fire, speed reload and fire, come back to ready, go to a kneeling ready position to retrieve the empty mag, stand and perform a tac reload with the empty mag.  Rinse, repeat.  I may even add in a little shooting from kneeling.

Movement is the area I had the most trouble with.  Moving straight forward is easy and I can fire fast and accurately this way.  And while we didn't cover it IDPA has taught me I can do this retreating as well.  Moving side to side was a bit of struggle.  Frank teaches a method of keeping your upper body oriented in targets' direction.  It makes perfect sense and works well from what I've seen but it's going to take some practice for me to be able to do it smooth.

Towards the end of the day Frank began setting up various scenarios for us to shoot with steel targets.  This was a lot of fun and got progressively more difficult as we went.  There was even some team shooting and head to head competition.  There were a a number of shooters both faster and more accurate than me so I could have done better but I still enjoyed it.

In the end I fired over 800 rounds that day.  This is the most I've ever fired in a single day before and I learned some things about my Glock.  First, it can take it.  The gun hadn't been cleaned before the course so this was well over 1000 rounds with no cleaning or lubrication.  I shot with my TLR-1 attached and aside from a lot of carbon buildup it survived in good working order.  My DSG Alpha holster and mag pouch also came through with no issues and my TheBeltMan leather gun belt carried them all day comfortably.  I had no failures with the Glock that weren't self-induced (riding the slide stop, of course).

I feel like I came out of this course with a new understanding of what it takes to be a fast and accurate shooter and how I can go about getting faster without losing accuracy.  The course pushed me to my limits and by the end of the day I was ready to throw in the towel but I really feel like I came out of it for the better.  I would definitely recommend Frank Proctor and Way of the Gun to others interested in furthering their shooting skills and I'm planning on taking more of Frank's courses in the future.

All that said their were two things Frank taught that gave me pause.  I'm willing to keep an open mind so I'm going to try them out for a while and see how they work for me.  One of these was using the slide stop to release the slide instead of racking the slide.  His reasoning is that it's faster and more efficient.  I tend to agree and used that method most of the day with no issues as did everyone else.  What gives me pause about it is that we all, including Frank, were shooting Glocks and Glock is very adamant that it is a SLIDE STOP and not a SLIDE RELEASE nor is it designed to be used as one (yet they make it so grippy).

The other was Frank's method for racking the slide.  He teaches using the web of the hand between thumb and forefinger to grasp the slide forward of the ejection port to run the slide.  I've tried it and can do it, but it gets tricky when your hands start to get sweaty.  I'm also a bit nervous about getting my hand that far forward.  I can see that going wrong if you ever get in too much of a hurry.

*A note here that I think goes to Frank's character.  He said he would give any person who has an AD/ND a prorated refund of their course fee.


Old NFO said...

Good post, and sounds like a good learning experience! Now you have options to pursue for training and what works for you!

RobertM said...

Yeah, I'm glad I finally got my butt out there. I've already signed up for a carbine course with him in early January.