Student AARs, Close Quarter Handgun class with low-light shooting bonus course, Mill Creek club, Nov 21-22

Reposted from PistolForums with permission from the students;

So life happened and it’s taken me a hot minute to get caught up, including writing this AAR.

1- I was the host/sponsor/fixer for this class.
2- Due to an unplanned doctor’s appointment, I had to miss the first half of TD1.

Who: Chuck Haggard at the helm, people who carry professionally/privately willing to learn on the line
What: 2 Day Close Quarters Handgun Employment class
Where: Mill Creek Rifle Club, DeSoto, KS
When: 21-22NOV 2015

Gear used:

Pistol- Glock 34, Gen4 with Vickers slide stop and mag catch, AmeriGlo older gen Pro i-Dots w/ green tritium front with orange outline, and single dot dim yellow rear.
Holster- Custom Carry Concepts Shaggy, Rich modified my Gen3 holster to fit my Gen4 34s. Currently the new production models will all fit Gen4 34s, but he would be the POC to verify that.
Mag carriers- Blue Force Gear, belt mounted single pistol pouches, x2. First time I ran these. They redid the velcro attachment from their initial offering at SHOT and this iteration is much more stable.
Mags- Glock 17 rounders with orange baseplates, which is how I indicate my training mags
Ammo: American Eagle 147gr, AE9FP
Flashlight: SureFire E1B

Survey of Students:

A full class of 12 were signed up. Two couples were not able to make it, leaving 8 shooters on the line. There were no novices amongst the shooters. Age range was late 20s to 68. Two active LEOs, one a Sergeant at a local major university, the other out in Chuck’s old PD on the Gang squad. A few former Mil, the remainder were switched on citizens who carry. One is currently finishing his PhD in Engineering. So a very solid range of shooters who make the decision to carry and the effort to hone their pistol craft. The LEOs used their duty rigs, which were Safarilands on Bat belts, a few general behind-the-hip kydex options, and roughly half were carrying appendix. As far as I can recall, there was no leather asides from Chuck’s set up.

Training Day 1-

As stated above, after setting the class up on TD1 I had to jet to a visit to the doc and did not return until after lunch. The weather/temperature was the coldest it had been this year. Although BOB( the sun) did break through, he wasn’t juiced enough to make that much of a difference in the temperature. Generally, it stayed around the high 20s in the sun, with the wind cutting that down to the low 20s. I have never done any training on the civvie side in those conditions. Shooting from concealment, with all the clothing layers to defeat prior to a successful draw and presentation was something I had not done for that length of time before. I played the Smart Ranger and used my 215 Gear Handwarmer with a hand warmer dropped in it in-between shooting iterations. Clearly, I’m not going to be walking around the real world with a Multicam kangaroo pouch, but for the sake of the class that was my choice. Other shooters used gloves of varying thickness and warmth to combat the chill. Again, for purposes of the class I also left my shell jacket open, but kept my insulating jacket zipped up over my regular clothes. Those are the only shortcuts I took. One of the tangential discussions that came out of this, was Chuck mentioning the excellent utility of jacket pocket carrying a J-Frame or similar sized pistol during the cold season. The idea is by no means revolutionary, as I’m sure he and many others already carry a piece in such a manner during winter, but it got me thinking about the steps needed to take to make it a reality. The conversation direction was that the J-Frame would be in addition to, not instead of your main carry option.

I showed up after lunch and my tardiness guaranteed me the furthest left spot on the line, which in that case meant the least amount of sun, IE the berms were already blocking it out by the time I showed up. Forum member DEG had the extreme right position which enabled him the most amount of sun. The targets Chuck had set up on the line were the standard VTAC skeleton/vital areas. We were shooting for precision/accuracy on the chest box, keeping it to two round strings. Each string was from the draw. Chuck had the line at about 5-7 yards depending on the strength of the Coriolis effect. The speed of engagement was up to each student, with Chuck emphasizing that the hits on target would indicate if you could speed up, or should slow down. Chuck was very active in walking the line and getting a solid snap shot of each shooter, specifically tailoring his observational tidbits to them.

After the above drills, we began to prep for the low light and night shoot portion of the class. Chuck’s understanding of crawl-walk-run as not just some fancy range adage, but an actual process to be followed is noteworthy. As most students had either never shot a night fire portion, or had not shot one in quite some time, he took the time to start the process while we still had plenty of daylight. What I mean by this is that Chuck had the class start running familiarization drills and dry runs for the drills and iterations we would be shooting during the night. So out came the flash lights, and single-hand gun employment drills. The students running a WML were using their hand held lights as primaries. The class collectively voted to skip a hard break for dinner and go right into the night portion of the class. Given the early darkness and dropping temps, this was a very sensible decision. This also allowed for an earlier ENDEX time.

This was my second class with Chuck, and one of the things which struck me from the first one, is his vast knowledge and on-demand recall ability of real world stories about all things shootouts. This naturally applied to low light/no light as well. The first takeaway from those stories I can relate to from my Mil time, which is that the “never happen in a million years” scenarios do happen, and they happen a lot more frequently than a million years. The second I can also relate to very easily due to my past Force-on-Force training, is that you will get shot in/near the light, if you have it mounted on your gun. Chuck went over the pros and cons of carrying various lights, and demonstrated the merits or demerits of various employment methods. His bottom line as I understood it to be is that a WML has very limited benefits for a concealed carry application, but those are outweighed by the negatives. However, when put in the context of a dedicated night stand/home defense pistol/carbine, a WML truly comes into its own for the average armed citizen. Obviously, if you and all your buddies are jocked up taking down targets all night, then freedom on with your candela collection. My concealed set up does not have a WML, but I do have them on all my long guns.

The actual night time shooting was very illuminating for me, all pun intended. My previous night time training was not concealed carry/private citizen based, so this was most certainly a new angle for me. At 7 yards and in, what worked best for me was the very fast and still very accurate method of having the gun fully extended and shifting to a partially bladed forward stance, while bringing my flashlight to my cheek in order to PID the targets. Chuck had switched to these…ersion-2-a.asp
targets for the night portion, in order to aid in the process of PID with our lights, followed by engagement or non-enagement of them.

After every shooter got plenty of reps in, Chuck very much left it to each of us as to how fast we wanted to push it. Which is another solid aspect of someone like Chuck. He can convey very clearly to the average listener, that the best and probably only times to push it until the wheels fall off, are in controlled training environments such as a class. Training evolutions SHOULD be purpose designed to continually expand a shooters comfort zone. The only way to do that is go beyond your previous limits/edges, whatever they may have been. Coming from a military background, this is very refreshing to see get freely passed on in an open enrollment setting. Although a concealed carry class, that training mindset is appropriate for any skill based setting.

We moved out to 10 and 15 yards after the close in stuff. Chuck had each student shoot the same drill with the same light employment technique as from the 7yd, in order for each shooter to see just what the effects were at distance. Personally, I slowed down noticeably and my shots still went outside the box, but not off the silhouette. The beam from my SF was plenty good and strong, so PID was not an issue. Some shooters were using small nuclear reactors disguised as flashlights, so that may have resulted in overall spillage across the line, but I do not have any issues with my E1B’s power or cone. After the light-to-cheek method was shot a few times at this distance, we switched to the Harries technique. This was a far more stable platform to shoot from, as you are now back to utilizing your support hand, well to support your strong hand. What I noticed was that I was slower to get it set up, and I needed to force myself to stay at extension of my gun arm. The reason I mention this is because Harries can become fairly fatiguing, fairly quickly, hence the human tendency to pull in the gun from full extension to half or even quarter extension. This is bad umkay, as you have now broken your overall grip and recoil management ability. So, personally I had to focus more so on staying at full extension than anything else during the set up. Once this was achieved, the actual shooting was very similar to a two handed feel, as well as very stable. Something I noticed myself doing was naturally going into an angled forward blade again. This was a natural bio-mechanic process for me, which I did not become fully aware of until a few iterations into the drills. It absolutely aided in keeping the gun at full extension, certainly helped in mitigating or at least staving off fatigue, and was also fast to set up. The benefits of the Harries stance were very apparent at this distance. You were trading speed for accuracy. By no means is it inherently slow, it is just slower than the cheek index. But that gap can be closed with good repetitions in training. Harries is inherently more accurate than the cheek index. My rounds were now back within the box and the ones that weren’t were at least no more than a finger or two off. In sum, each shooter was able to see what worked for them at the varying distance. I think we all agreed that the cheek index was faster and more useful the closer the engagement distance was, while Harries was the go to technique the further out we went. No shooter chose to stick with the cheek index at the 15 yard line. Some shooters chose to stick with Harries even as we migrated back to the 7 yard. Shooters preference alive and well. Chuck just made sure that we all knew the pros and cons, and how the theory worked out in practice for each shooter, at varying distances. And for those wondering, the moon was a Waxing Gibbous, and coupled with the range being decently far away from any major light pollution, it was fairly bright, but not nearly enough to actually be able to properly ID and engage the targets.

This was the end of TD1. Any errors or omissions are strictly mine and are not malicious in design.

I will tackle TD2 tomorrow and hopefully be able to tie it all into one post. Perhaps I will need the power of the great computer wizard Tom_Jones to accomplish this feat.



Chuck Haggard Class Summary
I took a class from Chuck Haggard ( last weekend, Nov 20-21. Two days and one night. It was an excellent class, and attended by a couple of other PF members as well. I thought it was an effective blend of shooting, instruction, and practical, data-driven drills. It was pretty cold on Saturday with lows around 25. So also a good opportunity to practice drawing and shooting from concealment in winter clothes and test some gear.

If you get a chance to train with Chuck, I highly recommend it.

I have a few high level notes posted below, but there was a lot more to the class than I have summarized. If anyone from the class happens to stumble across the summary, please feel free to add content, clarify, and improve.

Day 1

We started in the clubhouse for introductions and some background on the class. Each student provided an honest assessment of their training and background, which was helpful. Big focus on safety.

Chuck was clear to state that he was not locked into any particular doctrine, but rather a focus on data and drills proven to be effective in his experience.

On the range, we started with demonstrator guns and movement around obstacles, and appropriate use of the Sol position. An overview of the mechanics of the draw from strong side and appendix with concealment. (Four students, including me, were carrying appendix. That was nearly half of the class.) Trigger discipline, looking the gun into the holster after clearing concealed garments was also a focus.

Initial shooting was around five yards and focused on accuracy. Slide slingshot reloads were encouraged since they mirror a malfunction drill. Data indicates that you are as likely to clear a malfunction as you are to reload, so it was recommended that it be the same technique to keep it simple.

Preparation for night shooting in the late afternoon including strong hand drills with a flashlight. Modified FBI search technique and mag changes with flashlight. Night shooting included target discrimination (color and number, and no shoot). Also an opportunity to test the flash of various carry ammo without flashlight.

Day 1 stuff to remember: Great folks attending the class. The person next to me in line was a more experienced and better shooter, so that was also a big plus. He worked with Chuck for years and was able to further explain a few of the drills to me and offer some tips. Strong hand with flashlight techniques – my P30 felt big and heavy shooting one handed for an extended duration. Made me re-think choosing a larger gun for home defense vs carry, if searching a house one handed is a likely scenario. Moving out to 10 yards one handed with flashlight, cold, and a bit fatigued I was all over the target cranking the trigger low left. I’m going to work on this in future range sessions.

Day 2

We started with discussion and then shooting drills around 5 yards. Speed up and slow down drills, two to chest cavity, two to head, then two to chest again. Then we switched starting with slower precision shots, followed by faster chest shots. Goal was to know when to shoot a bit slower for precision, and when you could speed up (and how fast) to still make your hits.

We practiced several malfunction drills with dummy rounds, including FTF, double feeds, clearance strong hand only and support hand only. This was particularly good practice for me, since racking the slide off of the belt is not something I have worked on in the past.

We performed the 21 drill several times at 7 yards and 5 yards, then incorporated color and number drill distinction. Close quarters shooting from high 2 position with support arm protecting head.

Scenario discussion and practice with partners, including clearing friendlies out of the way of a shooting event while drawing one handed, stopping gun grabs strong side, support side, one handed and two handed, and striking at close distance with the top of slide. This deserved a good portion of time and practice.

We finished the day with ballistic gelatin tests with 357 mag HP through clothing compared to 9mm 124 +P Gold Dot, .40 Gold Dot, and 22 caliber. The 9mm GD penetrated the length of the gelatin, mushroomed perfectly and made it to the other end where it was stopped by the cover garment. The 357 mag stopped about 1/2 to 2/3 the way through, and the 22 tumbled at about half way. (There were a few really cool pictures we took and I’ll see if we can get them posted later.)

Day 2 stuff to remember: Protecting the gun needs practice or I’ll forget the drills. Malfunction drills should be incorporated into my range sessions, along with strong/support hand shooting and movement during the draw and reloads. A lot to practice and remember!

Again, there was much more content in the class than I have summarized. I finished the weekend worn out and happy; and a better shooter than when I started. Looking forward to getting him back for another class in the spring.