Why it’s important to take fight-focused training

| April 28, 2014 | 4 Comments

She-Shepherd and I took our first live-fire training course of 2014 this weekend. The Minnesota weather presents many challenges. For example, the outdoor facility we use is unavailable between November and late March / early April due to snow. There are indoor ranges (some without heat; we had -30F ambient temps this year) and as you’d expect none of them allow for drawing from concealment, let alone getting off the X or moving and shooting.

We logged the first live-fire class of the year on Saturday, thanks to Quorum Security Training (QSI).

I’m a strong believer in practicing the fundamentals. I take every basic handgun and rifle class I can, and I try to work on something a little different every time. Trigger control, running the class off-hand, my procedures (stoppages, reloading, etc). It’s important to have a goal or two when you attend a training event.

The focus of my training Saturday was to make sure my trigger control was okay and that I slowed myself down to find the right balance between speed and accuracy.

Most of the students had never taken a fight-focused class before. Despite the high quality of the attendees as a whole it reaffirmed my belief that most people who own guns don’t get the right kind of training, if they seek out any instruction at all.

This post is a high-level overview of the class, the attendees, and how we can shepherd our friends and families into taking this kind of training that we all need.

Class setup

There were fourteen students in attendance. The students were divided up into two firing lines for most of the day. This allowed the instructors to pay more attention to each student and enabled students to reload in between drills.

Erik Pakieser was the primary instructor, with three range officers present. The instructor-to-active student ratio was almost 1:2, which is very good. Most of my training with other organizations had a much higher instructor-to-active student ratio — sometimes there was just one set of eyes for a dozen students.

QSI is known for supporting students from different ethnic, social, and cultural backgrounds — we’ve encountered a lot of “Gun Culture 2.0” folks in prior classes.

There were two women in the class, and as far as I know She-Shepherd and I were the only students of mixed racial heritage. I’d put the median age of the students at mid-40s.

Only three of the fourteen students had taken a pistol class from QSI before Saturday. Only six of the students had any prior training with QSI at all, and the remaining 8 had never taken a fight-focused shooting class. The only training four students had prior was their lecture-based concealed carry course.

Overview of class material

I’m not going to recap the entire class, or go through what was learned, but I think it’s important to note the breadth of the material covered in one eight hour class. Remember that the majority of the students had never taken a practical shooting class from anyone before.

Students learned:

  • Basic firearms safety and range safety
  • How to properly unload and load a pistol
  • What trigger reset was and why trigger finger position and discipline is important
  • How to properly grip a handgun to maximize contact and control
  • How to do a “press check” to evaluate if a handgun was loaded
  • Ways to avoid being put “on the X” by aggressors
  • Ways to de-escalate an incident using verbalization and commands
  • How to challenge an aggressor given time and opportunity, and when to immediately go into action
  • How to safely and efficiently draw from concealment and reholster into concealment
  • How to accurately shoot a four round burst. This was done at 15, 21 and then up to 45 feet away
  • How to clear malfunctions
  • Do a 360 degree scan for threats, using the Sul position to insure retention and safety
  • Move when not shooting
  • Engage multiple targets
  • Engage multiple targets without hitting hostages / innocent bystanders
  • How to handle a crowd after a shooting
  • What to say to the police when they arrive

That’s a lot to cover in an eight hour class, but it’s really the bare minimum skill set for gun fighting. There is a lot more to learn, but this is the bare minimum. The curriculum is similar in scope with other fight-focused training groups such as DTI and Suarez International, so students of any three entities should be able to transfer back and forth easily (which is great).

High level observations

In short, this was the best collection of students of any beginner class I’ve ever attended. Students faced challenges, especially once we started moving around. However, the quality of the shooting was quite good. I hope that my classmates return for more training and practice what they learned. I feel like the vast majority of them just need more time and experience. Everyone seemed to “get it,” even if they sometimes jumbled things up during execution.

The mental and physical breakdowns of the students were more obvious because the quality was so high. In prior basic classes some student struggle so much it’s hard to tell when the wheels really come off. In general, there was a sharp decline in accuracy, confidence, and execution as the QSI instructors added more layers to the drills.

  • Movement caused the biggest drop in accuracy and the biggest increase in incorrect procedures
  • Very few students ever reloaded under duress prior to this class. I saw some magazine juggling, unintentionally dropped mags, and fumbling while trying to find the magazine well. This isn’t a knock on any individual student, but reaffirms my belief that most people who’ve “shot guns for 20 years” need more exposure to fight-focused shooting while under even minimal stress.
  • Several students struggled with their pistols. This is normal, is not meant in a judgmental way, and is part of the reason for taking this course. Best to find out that a certain handgun doesn’t suit you or isn’t well-suited for being a defensive handgun here than when something actually happens. I would love to fast-forward to next year and see how many students continue to train with the pistols they used today.
  • Many students had problems with their off-hand. The most typical issue was not keeping their off-hand close to their body during the draw. Not doing so may present a safety problem. This is also common, but stresses that going to a range and becoming proficient in target shooting doesn’t address a fraction of things encountered during a defensive shooting.
  • Students (in this class or otherwise) deal with stress in one of two ways: they become hyper aggressive or hyper thoughtful. I’ll go into this more in a future post, but it’s interesting to observe how different people deal with stress, new information, and failure / mistakes in different ways.

We need to encourage others

I’ve taken basic classes over a dozen times from different organizations and instructors. Every time I finish a class I have more things to work on, and can more accurately gauge my own abilities, strengths, and weaknesses.

We need to help other gun owners take this kind of training. We need to encourage our friends and families that training is important, doesn’t have to be scary, and will help them learn a lot about themselves as well as the gear that they own.

Try this: ask one of your friends who is a gun owner if they can do all of the things I outlined above  — and not just one item at a time, but all of it, altogether, under stress.

If the answer is yes, you’re in good company.

If the answer is no, help them find a fight focused training program, and if you’re a real pal volunteer to go with them.

We all need to work on our fundamentals, and being an active coach and mentor to someone else might save someone’s life some day.


About the Author:

Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd is a regular guy and works to make Web sites and mobile apps easier for people to use. He spends his free time attending fight-focused firearm, knife, and combatives training, motorcycling, writing, and playing games. His daily carry is a Glock 19 pistol and an AR15 .300 Blackout pistol in a backpack.

4 Comments on "Why it’s important to take fight-focused training"

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  1. Jesse says:

    “as far as I know She-Shepherd and I were the only students of mixed racial heritage”

    I didn’t realize you two were of mixed racial heritage. You don’t look it to me. Personally, I am half Mexican half Irish, so you could say I am also of mixed racial heritage. But I don’t look it at, as I got my skin tone and features from my father, who was the Irish one. I brown up easily in the sun though, and my dark hair come from my moms side.

    “That’s a lot to cover in an eight hour class, but it’s really the bare minimum skill set for gun fighting”
    This statement I completely agree with. This class is way more useful than the Carry Permit class I took over the winter (which was not at QSI).

    And it was an excellent class. As usual with the QSI guys, I feel like I learned way more than 8 hours worth of material.

    • Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd says:

      This is why I qualified my statement 🙂 She Shepherd and I are both halvsies and as you noted “pass” easily. Like you, I look more Hispanic as I tan, but thanks to the weather here I affect my more European skin tones for most of the year 😉

      Great to see you last Saturday.

  2. Mark says:

    This was my second class and all I can say (again) is I am totally in QSI’s debt. I learn so much each time I attend and am looking very forward to the rest of the classes this season. Not only are the instructors in these classes excellent but the people in these class are amazing as well. I have made friends in these classes and am great-full to be acquainted with such fine people.

  3. Dominic says:

    As one of the people who “shot guns for 20 years” I can honestly say that without proper training you don’t know as much as you think you do.
    Totally enlightening experience and I can’t wait to go back.

    The instructors and class attendees were a great bunch of people and I will probably be trading in the gun I took the class with for something else, hopefully before my next class.

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