Tuesday, June 7, 2011

AAR: Team Spartan "Officer Down" Course, Harvey, IL 2008

[I used to blog for the McHenry Co. Sportsmen's Association, but a bit ago I realized that I'm much more a pistol-specialist and decided to dedicate more time to that endeavor. With their permission, I'll be bringing in reviews that originally appeared there. I only started shooting in '07, so please bear with some of my "green-ness" at the time...]

I bought my first revolver in spring of 2003. I specifically choose the wheel gun after reading Massad Ayoob's book on Combat Handgunnery - I just figured that it would be the easiest to practice with, chamber check, store (no magazine springs.), and use in a situation (no safety).  I ran a few boxes of ammunition through her to make sure she went "bang!" each time I pulled the trigger, and while I wasn't a lousy shot, I knew that'd I'd need to practice a fair amount to get things "right".
At that point a lot of my training came from Ayoob's book and Ed McGivern's book "Fast and Fancy Revolver Shooting" - I had bought the book after stumbling across it looking for more revolver information/history. At this point, invariably, some folks will stop and wonder how a seemingly dated book on trick shooting from 1938 can actually mesh with Ayoob's "modern" take on pistol shooting - its pretty simple really, while Ayoob gives a lot of tips and ideas, McGiven actually provides a decent lesson plan for the aspiring shooter in Section 20: "Training Law Enforcement Officer. Practical Revolver Shooting Applied to Police Training." At minimum, McGiven had me practicing shooting weak-handed and practicing a decent draw-stroke. 
Time went on, I took more courses, bought different guns, and started shooting USPSA - some of the real-world items in McGivern's lesson plan were forgotten because they were basics and not "high speed" enough to do. Until this past Saturday, that is...
I went back for my 5th course with John Krupa and Team Spartan at the Harvey Police Range to run their excellent course "Officer Down! Disabled Officer Shooting Drills". It was surprising that there were only five of us on the range. I'm stretching a guess here, but I think most people want to pay for the "ninja" techniques and not the annoying, difficult, real world techniques that could actually save ones skin. 
From the start, Krupa stated that this course focused on familiarization - more than anything Krupa wanted us to understand that while these weren't the best techniques for delivering shots, these were techniques that might be subconsciously available in a bad situation and that even a minimum exposure to them could help keep you in the fight.
After paperwork, we dove right in: We worked off a little rust by running through a magazine with two hands, then transitioned to strong-hand for a magazine then weak-hand. After we were done, Krupa presented a simple, reliable method for handling the pistol during the transition and we loaded up and worked that for a few magazines, alternating one shot strong-hand, transition, one-shot weak-hand, rinse-repeat. [NOTE: This is very similar to the technique that Enos describes in his book.]

It was amazing to see that most of us could shoot pretty well strong hand and weak-hand, but that we really needed to slow down and think about lining sights up correctly weak-hand. Looks like I know what to practice!
We sat down for a lecture session on one handed reloading and malfunction clearance. Krupa was a big fan of putting the pistol back into the holster in order to reload, stating that at least you'd be able to walk if needed. We also covered the reload between the knees and the Bank Miller "under the arm" technique. From this point forward, we were expected to reload one handed, safely, when shooting with one hand. 
We also spent time learning to tap-rack one handed using our knees to tap and our rear sights to "hook" our holsters, belts, etc to work the slide. We also covered the rebound cycle where one bounces the slide off the leg in order to cycle it. 
Clearing double feeds were especially tough - the worst is trying to clear a double feed on a Sig Sauer or Glock left handed. Folks, this is tougher than it sounds. With the right hand the slide lever is positioned well, but for lefties, there is almost no way to lock these guns back! 
I was initially worried about safety as we headed back to the range - you know, the guy next to you might cross 180 while trying to rack one handed, but my fears were unfounded as Krupa had a pretty good method for us practicing this: we'd clear our guns and load an empty magazine, then work on reloading one handed, then clear the gun again, call the range "safe", scoop the empty magazine and repeat with the opposite hand.
Shortly thereafter, we broke for lunch - which I forgot at home, so I just kept shooting. I bought a long my Advantage Arms .22 conversion and swapped the slide out, loaded up and burned through ~300 rounds of .22 working on the drills. I'll be posting more about this in an upcoming article too.
After lunch we started working from a variety of compromised positions: chair-seated, sitting on the ground, supine (on our backs) and prone. Folks, rolling in the dirt and shooting weak-hand is totally humbling and something that I'll be working on at home with dry fire. We culminated in shooting a continuous roll "vertigo" drill (AKA Mell Gibson's Lethal weapon roll) and it is much tougher than the movie would have you believe.

[Update: Nowadays, I spend about 35%-40% of my time drilling strong and weak-hand drills, both on close targets and far targets.]