Okay, first off, a little background. This was not a normal pistol class that I attended at some regular range somewhere. This was the best Father’s Day present ever, because my wife is awesome and was cool with us hosting three days of pistol classes from world class instructors AT OUR HOUSE.
Yeah, that does sound nuts, but for the last few days we held two pistol classes at Yard Moose Mountain (and a third class at a friend’s office building in an adjoining town). The students were a bunch of hard core shooters from around the country and several writers I know. (student names withheld to protect the innocent and guilty!)
I drafted a crew of local teenagers to clean up my little range, got my Polaris ready to play Uber back and forth to my house, and bought a bunch of great quality target stands from Action Target in Provo.
The instructors were John Johnston, Melody Lauer, and Chris Cypert of Citizens Defense Research, and they did an excellent job. A different one of them would be the primary for each class, while the other who also provided a bunch of help and instruction.
Friday was Contextual Handgun: Fundamental Applied Pistol Skills. This was a class aimed at the writer contingent because most of them had little to no shooting experience. That said a bunch of the experienced shooters who were there for the advanced class the next day also took this one, so it was a really good mix of knowledge levels.
Melody was the lead on this class and was fantastic. She’s high energy, entertaining, engaged, and has a gift for watching a student and diagnosing their issues. As a former instructor of CCW and basic pistol, it was interesting to see how she worked. It’s the mark of a good teacher when they can help a newb fix something obvious one minute, and then provide tweaks to coax more performance out of somebody really experienced a minute later.
My 16 year old son took this class, and as a dad it’s a pretty amazing feeling to see that your kid has their shit together! Some of the newb writers were using handguns and holsters that I loaned them, but by the end of the day they were working from the holster, smooth and safe, and getting good solid fast hits. I love watching that kind of progress.
FAPS (yes, I love the acronym) goes through all the basics and then some. One thing that I really appreciate in a class like this is when they do some scenario based role playing exercises to demonstrate that the answer is usually not shooting, but sometimes it is. I’d recommend this class to anyone who is looking for a good, grounded, realistic pistol class, especially for people starting out trying to figure out where to go next.
Saturday and Sunday were Tests and Standards. This class is definitely not for beginners. It’s for people who’ve already had training and know how to run their guns fast and accurate get even better. Most of the shooters in this one were really experienced, and included a few who were already top tier shooters.
John Johnston was the lead on T&S, and he’s a very good instructor and one hell of a shooter. (a few of the drills, when he told us what a good time on them was, I thought to myself, “no fucking way is anybody shooting that clean in X seconds” and then he’d just do it cold on demand to demonstrate.
I learned a LOT in this class. T&S is odd in that it’s the most single student with the instructor, one on one, coaching time I’ve ever seen in a pistol class. But because of that you also end up with stretches of downtime while the instructors are coaching someone else. However, I got a ton out of listening to them coach others, because even if they were working on an issue I didn’t have, it was still something I could pass on to help people I shoot with.
Only a few of the writer contingent shot the advanced class. The three of us were all experienced shooters from a variety of backgrounds, and are the kind of guys who normally would be going for top gun in most regular classes. Here? Oh hell no. I’m not used to being on the low side of the bell curve in a pistol class, but this group was abnormal. Probably over half of them were firearms instructors themselves, taking T&S (often for the 2nd or 3rd time) so they could keep honing their own skills and picking up things to pass onto their students.
A note on that, one bad thing about a lot of firearms training is that if you are one of the best shooters there, the instructor will look at you and your target, say “good, keep doing that” and then ignore you while they go spend time with the rando they are worried is going to do something stupid. That isn’t how T&S is at all.
I don’t want to give away too much about the scored drills you do in T&S, but they are fucking difficult. 😀
On a personal note, there was two ways I could have looked at these classes. I could have run the same gun and gear that I always do in a vain attempt to look good. Or, since I had access to people who know their shit, I could check my ego, and try a bunch of new things to broaden my horizons while I had experts there to help me find out if those things work for me or not. So I switched from my regular IWB to AIWB, irons to MRDS, single action to double action, and I changed the position of my spare mags. Which is stacking a lot of stuff. (I have a goal to avoid fuddery in my old age!)
However, as a testament to how good these guys are, during the personal coaching they got me from an abysmal draw to first shot time using all that new stuff, to about the same as what I can do on demand using the gear I’ve been using for over 20 years, in only 3 days, with a few draws that were close to my best times ever from back when I was competing regularly (only concealed instead of a gamer rig!) Which is pretty damned impressive, considering they were correcting all sorts of crap that I didn’t even realize I was doing.
For lunches we ate at my house (because Bridget will be damned if anyone goes hungry on Yard Moose Mountain), and on Sunday night I ran a 17 person Savage Worlds role playing game, which by some friggin’ miracle, actually turned out super fun. But that’s a different blog post.
The fourth day was off the range and in the class room. Which by that point, thank goodness, because it had been stupidly, unseasonably hot. This one was was called Contextual Cognition, and the lead on this class was Chris Cypert.
If you’ve ever been through three long days of handgun training at 100 degrees and 6k feet above sea level , you know that wipes you out. So understand that this is high praise when I say that Chris is such a good teacher that he kept a bunch of tired and fried people (most of whom had stayed up until 2:00 AM playing an RPG) totally engaged and learning all day.
This class was really good stuff, and not just for shooters and gun nuts either, but for anybody interested in personal protection. It was about risk identification and management, how and why we make decisions, how humans process information, and how to prepare based on that.
The other classes were about how to shoot, this one was about how to think. Which is sadly the part that many of us in the gun culture skip over, even though decision making is way more important than pure marksmanship or looking cool.
I actually loved this last class part on two levels. One, I’ve spent my whole life interested in self-defense skills and how best to protect myself and my loved ones. But also, two, as a novelist, the stuff in this class was fiction writing gold, especially the parts going over how violent criminal actors operate.
So I heartily recommend CDR’s classes. They travel around the country and their schedule is at the link above. Check them out.
Yet sadly, no, you personally don’t get to come shoot at Yard Moose Mountain. That’s secret handshake invite only. I love all my readers, and no offense, but I can’t just toss that out to fifty thousand people to see which total strangers are going to get to blunder around through my house!
That was four days hanging out with super cool people, with no prima donnas or douchebags in the class, having fun, shooting guns, playing games, and just having a good time.
In conclusion, best Father’s Day present ever.