Citizens Defense Research classes (Yard Moose Mountain UT Edition) after action report

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.

How to Run a 17 person Savage Worlds Game and Live To Tell The Tale
June Update Post

32 thoughts on “Citizens Defense Research classes (Yard Moose Mountain UT Edition) after action report”

  1. Larry,
    Thank you so much for not only opening your home to us, but also being an incredible student. I know I speak for all of us when I say that you were an absolute delight as both a host and a student.

    For the readers interested disappointed that they’re not able to take the Y.M.M. edition, we’ll be running the same blocks of instruction this October in Texas.

    1. John – you, Melody, and Chris were beyond awesome. I can’t wait to take more classes from you all.

    2. I’ll echo both of you. This was as fun a weekend as I’ve had in a long long time, and I got demonstrably better as a pistol shooter in the process. Hard to beat that.

    1. No, it was me, I ticked him off at Dragon Con ’18 and he still hasn’t remembered who I am…


    2. Based on the photo above, I believe he’s got a spacious “open floor-plan” house. But have you seen the size of the MHN facebook group? Not a quarter of us would even fit!

      1. So we chip in and have him put up a tent.

        And some porta potties. Even though I’m sure it will be loads of fun I’ll be ready to leave after a couple of weeks.

  2. That sounds awesome!
    I’m sure we’re all glad you had a great Father’s Day.
    (And maybe educated some writers in the process. I so prefer books with realistic shooting.)

  3. The 2-day class was excellent. The instructors were incredible.

    I only got 30 rounds in before my torn labrum said “screw you, Steve… you don’t get to move that joint for a few days.” So I did A LOT of mental reps. I learned an insane amount.

    Fantastic class.

  4. I couldn’t really tell from your description, did Bridget take any of the classes? No offense intended, but I think I’d rather have you shooting at me then her. After all, “The female of the species is more deadly than the male”.

    1. She didn’t this time. Her plan was to host, and also hang out with some of the other shooter spouses who traveled here, but didn’t want to take the classes.

  5. Larry, I remember you from THR, ’03-ish, before I ever knew you were an author.

    I’m glad you’re getting this kind of awesome training. I wish my back injuries (11 years of football was fun at the time, but not recommended) would allow me to partake in more active training – how strenuous would you say these classes were?

    Thank you for sharing this!

    1. The main part that would make it physically hard was the temperature this summer. As for physically, this isn’t a run around or wrestle class. It’s pure shooting. But if standing on gravel for hours in a shooting stance kills your back, it would probably be bad. Lots of repetitions from the holster. Steve had to stop because he tore his labrum a little while ago, and the shoulder movement was killing him.

      One thing I didn’t mention, but these guys had a great medical plan in place (probably the most serious one I’ve seen in any class, and far better than what was considered good back when I was teaching) and they made sure everybody stayed hydrated or in the shade whenever possible. A crappy instructor doesn’t care about stuff like that. We had a couple of people get shaky by the end of day 3 because of the heat (and also, I’m at 6k feet, which was tough for people coming from places just barely above sea level) so they took a break and sat in an air conditioned truck to cool off.

      1. Good info, much appreciated! Heat doesn’t bother me (Texas boy) with proper hydration, for which it sounds like they were well prepped. Altitude doesn’t usually cause me many issues either – I played at Colorado a couple times and didn’t have the O2 deficit that some of my team suffered.

        I’ve done several Appleseed courses, and the last one a couple years ago was just brutal – the up, down, up, down parts beat my L4-S2 to hell. Sounds like I could potentially handle the CDR courses, which is exciting since John J mentioned they’ll be in Texas soon and they sound quality.

        How do you like Action Targets? MOA Targets out of AZ (great folks and a hell of a sense of humor) is my usual go-to, but Action looks like it has an amazing range of products.


        1. MGM Targets is my favorite, but Action Targets makes great stuff. Plus they’re in Utah and I needed a ton of stands fast.

  6. One day, I hope to be deemed worthy to run a game at YMM.

    “The Battle Of Hoth, As It Should Have Been” is my first choice. 🙂

  7. The gun nerd in me wants to know…. what gun and RDS did you run?

    Have you tried out the PHLster Enigma yet?

    When are you going to be on Ballistic Radio? You would be a great guest!

    1. A. Beretta LTT with a Swampfox Liberty from a Phlster Floodlight.
      B. I’m on the waiting list for the Enigma.
      C. No idea.

  8. Glad it went well, and learning was had. And thanks to you and Bridget for opening your home to those folks. As I said before, I believe Chris will be picking up the mantle of Dr. William April with the risk identification and management.

  9. My top 5 takeaways from Friday’s class:

    1) Melody was a great lead instructor.
    2) My biggest thing I need to work on is consistent grip coming out of the holster, and bringing it up to eye level. (One of the super-shooters kept correcting me)
    3) Second biggest thing is trigger pull after bringing it to eye level; still too messy. (A super-shooter and Melody both corrected me a few times)
    4) I need to see if I can do those draw-and-shoot drills at the Kaysville public range; two to the chest, one to the face.
    5) I liked their warnings about the most common mistakes which got people hurt, including hasty re-holstering. I made sure to take my time re-holstering, and looked down the top channel of the holster to be sure the muzzle wasn’t crossing any part of me, nor any part of the person to the right of me, while the weapon was going back in.

    The scenario training at the end, while long, was definitely a HUGE and unexpected bonus. That’s something we never, ever get in Army pistol qual, ever. We might do a tiny bit of tangential stuff like that during MOUT paint ball training, but us Reservists aren’t doing MOUT except maybe at mobilization? I’ve never done MOUT unless it was part of a mob, or a school like Candidate School. We could afford to do a lot more of it, frankly. But even MOUT doesn’t compare easily to in-your-home scenarios when some drunk, stoned, or high asshole is literally in your front room, and you’re peering at him past your fridge in the kitchen, trying to figure out WTF to do.

    Post-class results seem very encouraging. I took the same M&P I used Friday and went to The Armory in Sandy, and put two mags through it at equivalent distance (to Friday) and my shot group for both mags combined was probably the best group I’ve ever put on paper, ever. So some stuff from class seems to have stuck.

    Overall, highly enjoyable, very good training, and I was thankful for the invite; and can say the instruction was well worth the money. Hat’s off to Citizens Defense Research.

  10. “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”.

    Why do I have a mental image of an Orc with a slouching hat, wearing a poncho and a big iron on his hip?

  11. I am eaten alive by envy. As a person from Britain, the nearest I get to shooting is airsoft, and once training/tasting day at Bisley, which was awesome. I do archery to compensate, but pistol shooting, wow would I love to do this.

    1. You can shoot pistols in the UK. But it has to have a large barrel and an extender out the butt to make it over a certain leanth

  12. I loved Friday’s Fundamental Applied Pistol Skills class.

    Let me tell you, the instructors had their instructional crap put together. I say that as someone who has been in training for over 20 years for my day job.

    – Demonstrate
    – Practice
    – Practice parts of a multi-step action, then combine the parts into the whole
    – Explain why (not just how)
    – Keep the cognitive load at an appropriate level
    – Make sure the learning environment is positive and helpful
    – Give specific feedback
    – Use stories and metaphors
    – Take appropriate breaks

    They employed all of the key principles for effective training in a seamless production. As a result, the evolutions progressed smoothly, and I felt just the right amount of challenge as we moved along.

    But they didn’t stop there. They made the effort to think about all sorts of details. For example, Chris Cypert was in charge of the health of the students. Not only did he have an emergency plan, he assigned individuals in the group as drivers, flaggers, etc. And then he explained not only how much we should hydrate, but delivered friendly reminders during breaks.

    I just wish, as a newbie, I’d had more repetitions of the small movements like support hand to chest when I draw, releasing the safety in the drawn position, gripping with the lever type grip Chris shared, etc. (Yeah, I’m a newbie, but, duh, it was newbie defensive pistol class.) But I will get those reps in. I have tons of notes, and have been pointed in the right direction.

    But this is not all. The class was capped off by 60-90 minutes where pairs of us role-played scenarios, forcing us to think about what the heck to do when faced with a situation. Thinking with a gun in the hand, not just handling it. For me, it was the most valuable part of the whole day. Well, except for the Ding Dongs (grin).

    The other experienced shooters there were nice and generous and didn’t begrudge a newbie at a newbie class. In fact, Melody placed me right next to a visiting instructor who kept an eye out on my form.

    The bottom line is that Melody, John, and Chris were incredibly helpful. I can’t wait to take another class from them.

  13. This sounds like the sorta thing you should do livestreaming of during events like Hugo awards so that the pissy so called liberals there ( I refuse to consider them fellow liberals after their abysmal behavior), can’t claim you’re crying about not being there.

    The knowledge that people are having fun despite their disapproval dives culture bullies mad. Bonus points if there’s stuff that actively refutes their claims.

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