Posted by: exodus | April 6, 2009

a great day at KR Training

My friend Rog has taken quite a few courses from the fine folks at KR Training and has been urging me to do the same for a good while now. I hadn’t, mainly because my weekends were usually filled doing all the stuff a homeowner does when he’s not working… and since it’s all up to me, that’s usually a handful.

But, I decided to give it a go after realizing that training was more important than hardware, once everything is all said and done. I signed up for Basic Pistol 2 after some thought. Sure, I have a great deal of trigger time under my belt, and I am forced to admit that I have become a better shot than your average Joe over the years. However, it was wholly uninstructed time, as I’m basically self-taught (and no, sunshine, the non-KR CHL class doesn’t count. There was essentially no technique taught besides pointing the thing) and I knew I had “hit a wall.” I was capable of good accuracy if I took my sweet time, but watching the Shotgun City* shows told me that there was another level I could reach. I mean, you see guys and gals like Todd Jarrett, Julie Goloski, Robbie Leatham, and Jessie Abbate just BLAZE away… crazy fast, and accurate too. I just didn’t know how to get there.  Basic Pistol 2 is for uninstructed groundlings such as myself… I was game.

As I was hustling through the cool countryside air in Das BayernWagen, sucking down a McDonald’s steak and cheese bagel** and their Mocha coffee thingie (yes, I broke… it was truly an emergency) I woke up rather nicely. It was bucolic Lee County on a cool morning and my mood was improving by the second. I have a growing affinity for Lee County and the day held a lot of promise.

kr-cattle

Once at the range, I took a look around and realized that whoever owned the land and ranges was truly living the dream. A cool, perfect day (dry, sunny, and high 60s – low 70s) was shaping up, and I walked past the lowing cattle to enter my seat at about 9:02. (Sorry… I couldn’t remember which door to use!) It wasn’t quite a religious experience, but I felt my worries melt entirely. Somehow I knew this was going to be a damned fine day.

kr-rangehouse

Karl, John K, Tom, and some other nice fellow whose name escapes me were teaching the class. The classtime went well – no surprises for me informationally. We did have a short and spirited discussion about how to “classify” the XD (is it SA? DA? We decided it was “neither” or “safe action” I think) and the instructors were very smart, very direct, perfectly friendly, and kept the material to the appropriate level for the class at hand. No major excursions into gun nerd land, which I would have been OK with, but this was BASIC pistol 2 and was taught that way, to the credit of the instructors.

No lectures on how we were inferior people because we didn’t fight hard enough against “change” at the ballot box, and certainly no open contempt for the entire class as a whole or for people who didn’t grow up poor and live dangerously; no long, gruesomely detailed scare stories about Mexican kidnappings – in short, none of the distracting BS I dealt with in the only other gun class I ever took. No, this class was exactly in the pocket, and was extremely friendly and cheerful – I would send my mother to this class without hesitation, and that’s my personal gold standard.

We headed for the range and by this time the chill was mostly gone from the air. But for slightly more wind than was ideal for us electronic-earmuff wearing folk, you couldn’t have asked for a better day for shooting. I had brought the CZ-75 and a cheapie holster just to have one. The instructors said a holster wasn’t really needed but I should have used it… but more on that later.

In the interest of time I’ll summarize my shooting problems and the solutions that were generated.

  • No recognition or use of trigger reset

A habit that I didn’t even know I had was that after the shot, my trigger finger would basically fly off the trigger – it was “done” and now it was time to look at the target and see where the shot went. The fix for this came as one of the exercises – take the shot, and keep the trigger pressed. Slowly release the trigger until trigger reset (you know, the little click that says you can take another shot) while keeping the sights lined up for the next shot. It had never occurred to me, as a slow-fire kind of guy, that this would matter much. Oh… it does. John K worked very closely with me on this particular problem and I needed it. My trigger finger had the “fire and fly off” problem deeply burned in.

  • Looking over the gun after the shot, to check on shot placement

Tom caught me doing this, and briefly (and somewhat curtly, but they were pressed for time) said “you’re looking over the gun.” I didn’t know what he meant so during the shooter’s break I asked him to elaborate. He told me in good detail that after the shot, I was looking up over the gun to see where the shot went, and that he saw me doing this repeatedly. The fix for this was for me to just keep the sights aligned on target as much as possible, basically. The sight picture was essentially permanent until the shooting was done – I was looking at the target, and brought the gun up to me, and put the sights on target.

  • Strong hand baseball-bat grip

So I basically tend to grab the pistol like I would anything else – wrapping my hand around the grip and bringing my thumb down to my middle finger to enclose the grip. This was quite a problem for me when it came time to bring my support hand to the grip – no room. There’s a thumb there. This led to me playing “move the thumb” and my grip was an awkward ballet that took too long to establish. Also I tended to start pressing down with the right thumb over time, and would bring the muzzle down – another Tom observation. He claims to have the same problem…

What I had to do was to create a mantra to alleviate this and other habits… and what better choice than Tactical Fonzie!

Tactical Fonzie says:

  • Aaaayyy!!! I have a gun. Guns are COOL! Thumb UP! This moves it out of the way.
  • Point my weak hand thumb at the target, like when battling Mork. This gives me the correct wrist angle.
  • Press and hold! Press and hold! Press and hold! This lets me focus on the trigger reset. Trigger reset is COOL! Letting the trigger finger fly off after the shot is for NERDS!

Sounds dumb but I needed some kind of fast mental list, as I have a lot of bad habits and needed some kind of theme.

Let’s get my stupid bonehead move out in the open too. It wasn’t a perfect day, because when it came time to move the barrels, I had a nice case of brain fade. The sleep deprivation made itself known. I had the gun clear, action open and locked, and on one of the barrels. We were instructed to move the barrels back and so, not wanting the CZ to fall, I went to put it on top of my range box (on the ground) to move that back too. And of course, the gun slipped, and I went to grab it and the muzzle went every which way.

And Karl saw me do it. Yep… I was now “that guy.” Fan-freakin’-tastic.

I stopped, pointed the muzzle to the ground, dropped my head and silently cursed myself rather heavily. If I had only used the holster. If I’d just left the damned gun on top of the barrel. If I only had a brain…

scarecrow

OK that was the low point.

There were many high points, but my favorite was when the instructors decided that I was going to undergo an unscheduled, ad-hoc speed test. It went something like this:

“Your groups are too close – you’re tearing a ragged hole. Speed up.”

pow   pow   pow   pow   pow

“Still a ragged hole. Shoot faster.”

pow  pow  pow  pow  pow

“Shoot faster. Your group hasn’t opened up yet.”

pow pow pow pow pow

“Faster!”

powpowpowpowpow

“Still too tight. Faster!”

pow papow papow

“You broke your cadence. Shoot faster!” at which point I looked at John K with a mix of joy and disbelief. I was shooting faster than I had ever shot before, by a long way, and I was still right on target. Faster than THIS? Okely dokely, neighboreenio…

papapapapow

And still a fairly tight group. I was so proud you could have stuck a cigar in my mouth and called me Papa. This was the point at which it became very clear that this training had taken me to the next level, beyond a shadow of a doubt.

I could see everyone making progress. The woman with the tiny Kahr .40 had tightened up her recoil-fear-induced wild shooting considerably, and fast. The older lady who used the range’s M&P (and a nice one at that, with a fiber-optic front sight) was doing better too. There were about 2-ish students per instructor on the line – and they were on us for every mistake. You WANT this level of attention. Believe me. It ferrets out your mistakes pronto and… isn’t that the point?

You go to KR for training… you WILL improve, and you will have a dandy time doing so.

I stayed a bit after class and shot some more drills with John K and Tom Hogel, and we all chatted a bit. Quite a friendly bunch. John shot his STI framed .22 2011, and Tom actually let me shoot “a real gun” in his words – a mighty fine custom tacticool XD45 with fiber optic front sight, a blank rear, one hell of a nice trigger and the stickiest stippled grip I’ve ever handled. It was mighty generous of the guy and that was one hell of a gun. John and I talked reloading for a bit – I hope he offers a reloading class soon. If I improve my reloads like I improved my shooting, it’ll be well worth it.

It boils down to this. If you can get to a KR Training class… do it. I am a far better shooter after 4 hours, and I’ll be going back. KR Training works, and is fun too. You really can’t beat that.

A BIG BIG thank-you to Rog for paying for my class as a birthday present to me. You have given me a gift that will last a lifetime – I want you to know that. Thanks also to Tom and John K for taking extra time with me after the class was over, and for tailoring the instruction to my specific needs.

See John K’s commentary about my day at the range for the trainer’s perspective.

I personally had one of the best days I have ever had on this earth.

*Shotgun City is a friend’s stand-in term for the Wednesday Night at the Range programming line-up on the Outdoor Channel. American Rifleman, Shooting Gallery, Shooting USA, Best Defense – it’s all “Shotgun City” to her. It’s ok, I divide her boyfriend’s video game choices into “Map” or “Shoot” too.

** When I would go to Charles Town in West B’God for the Summit Point track days, McDonald’s was really the only game in town for morning grub since Fillie’s wasn’t open. It’s a profoundly greasy way to start the day but it reminds me of the good times of about a decade ago. A nostalgic breakfast, really.


Responses

  1. I’m glad you had a great day and learned a lot! I wish I could have been out there to have fun and meet you, but family took priority.

    Cool too that you got to spend some extra time with John and Tom, and that Tom let you shoot his XD. Nice isn’t it? But as for the Tom, I’m not sure if you maybe got things mixed up… the Tom you met isn’t the Tom that makes the holsters. You probably met this Tom

    Anyway, glad you had a good day. Maybe I’ll get you meet you at a KR event in the near future. :-)

  2. Glad you enjoyed and learned!! As Hsoi said, “this is not the Tom you’re looking for, move along.” Actually, the other Tom is the one you want for custom holsters. http://www.schaefertraining.com

    Tom’s (the one on the range) .45 XD’s are reworked by Scott Springer of Springer Precision. The trigger and the grip are Scott’s signiture work and worth every penny.

    You really did improve well and found that you had some shooting fundamentals but just needed a little tweek here and there on technique.

    Remember, the mantra is; “clear front site, smooth trigger press, clear front site, trigger reset, lather, rinse, repeat.” Eventually, the trigger reset and second site picture become one and your speed really picks up. And, remember to dry fire to ingrain the techniques. IT’s FREE!

    Anyway, it really was a wonderful day and on the range and great to meet you. Hope to see you again sometime soon.

  3. To be fair, I think that The Best Defense is one of the best shows on TV and I really enjoyed watching all the episodes. I’ve even found myself enjoying some of the other shows on the Wednesday block as long as I can walk away when they’re trying to sell their schtick. They had Rob Pincus on one of the shows and it was quite informative from a tactical perspective. I think I get easily frustrated watching all of them shoot so perfectly and fast.

    I’m glad that you enjoyed the class. The AT classes are quite fantastic, though for me so mentally taxing trying to remember everything learned that I go home physically and mentally spent. The last class we went to was Defensive Pistol Skills and Low Light Shooting and I was getting so completely frustrated with myself because I kept getting failure-to-eject jams (it was explained to me that it was the way I was holding it, but I’m not sure I ever figured out what was causing it). I had pretty much reached my emotional limit at that time, but pushed through the drill, pushing myself to focus. I’m not sure how much I got out of it all, and I’m sure that my brain went into such overload that I can’t actually remember most of the shooting drills now. I emailed Karl later to ask him for the drills to practice at home.
    The second class, Low Light Shooting was actually really awesome. Shooting in the dark is actually quite fun and strangely not nearly as hard as I had imagined. Somehow, I can keep a picture in my head of where something is after turning the light on only briefly and turning it off. Even while stepping to the side. I’m not so good at ducking back behind cover though, or shooting with my off hand. It’s like rubbing your stomach and patting your head.

    I hope to see you out on our range to practice the drill he taught. I know I sure need practice.

  4. John K. really is one hell of a shooting instructor. He took another coworker of ours and tightened his groups up from barn sized @ 7yds to about 4inchs @ 7yds in about half an hour. Hsoi is another really good one, great with the body mechanics (my guess is it comes from his martial arts skill set), hopefully you’ll run into him at your next course.

  5. I did indeed get things mixed up. It was Tom Hogel, you are right. I’ll be singing the Scarecrow’s song again. :)

    Family time is always the right choice if you can get it… no worries. I’m sure I’ll be back – likely more than once.

  6. Yeah, I messed up my Toms. Apologies to both Toms! I’ll fix the post here momentarily.

    Thanks for spending time with me on the range, fixing my particular problems. There’s no question that it helped. The day was constructed entirely from the finest soft Corinthian WIN!

    I’ll have to do much in the way of dry fire practice, but now that I have something to actually practice, that’ll help. :)

  7. The Best Defense is fantastic. If you listen to Michael Bane’s Downrange Radio podcast (because Shotgun City TV night isn’t nearly enough for me, I have to listen to Shotgun City Radio too) he was bragging pretty hard on Best Defense pretty hard before it hit the airwaves. Since he cuts loose a lot more on the podcast than he does on TV, I thought maybe it was pride… but no. BD is really quite good and everyone I’ve shown it to has been completely engrossed in it, regardless of shooting skill. Bane really did come through.

    Rob Pincus is quite the fashionable little elf, isn’t he? He had a jacket in one of the BD’s that I would LOVE to own myself, even knowing that it wouldn’t look half as good on me. Ah well. I too get frustrated watching these folks blaze away at impossible speed. I’m also always impressed with their silky gun handling after the shot… watching Todd Jarrett manipulate a slide is incredible, it’s scary how perfect he runs his pistol.

    I wonder if simple fatigue had you limp-wristing the pistol… if you felt overwhelmed informationally, that could have been it. I can tell you I’m no small fry, and my left wrist was hurting proper-like after the class from the new technique.

    I think I’m going to take either “Beyond the Basics” or the defensive long gun class next. Maybe we should all take the defensive rifle class together…

    I’ll be glad to come out to your range to practice more. I surely have the time these days… and actually John K and I did some weak hand shooting at the range after class – something I never really do. It was fun, actually! But slow. :)

  8. Based on the only other class I ever took, I really didn’t think that firearms instructors were a fun bunch. I figured I’d probably learn one new thing, maybe two, and have to suffer through four hours of hard-assery and injury to get there (like last time.)

    I’m glad I was wrong, and that the instructors were fun and effective. John K spent the most time with me. Beyond just getting me to shoot better, he and the others let me know that I was shooting at a higher level. That really overclocked my confidence level nicely.

    I’m sure I’ll run into everyone eventually, and also I’ll stop screwing up their last names too. :)

  9. Glad you guys like the show (and my wardrobe… :-) ).

    -RJP

  10. Uhm uhm uhm uhm uhm

    must not act like starstruck fanboy

    Hi Mr. Pincus!

    Thanks for commenting on my teeny tiny blog. I appreciate it immensely, and can tell you in no uncertain terms that it has made my day – really, maybe the whole month!

    I really do like the show – it is probably the one show that I make visitors sit down and watch from my DVR. I understand that it will be going to DVD and that’s a great, great thing.

    And yes – the wardrobe is awesome. That black and brown spattered jacket is way too cool. What is it, if I may ask? I dig it!


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