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.
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.
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 😄 (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…
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
“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…
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.