Trident Concepts conducted their 3-day intermediate Combative Pistol, Level 2 (CP2) class in Gainesville, FL at the Gainesville Target Range. The weather was excellent, high 80° with some high humidity at times. You have to love the humidity and it along with sunscreen would make gripping the pistol a bit of a challenge. The student body was a mix of local LE, some military and private citizens. We had folks come a long way for this class and some that have had scheduling conflicts for a few years finally make it to a class. It all worked out as we had a great time, sometimes classes just click and this one did an excellent job. I love it when they literally move by themselves. We were ahead of schedule for most of the class and maxed out on the round count, both rarities.

Equipment has become somewhat boring to talk about, but something worth mentioning goes back to defining your mission. There was one LE officer who chooses to fire something other than his duty weapon. The complication in keeping the brain aware of the different types of triggers is a lot to ask of anybody; much less folks who struggle to get range time. Do yourself a favor and keep it simple, if you cannot use your duty pistol then at least have a backup that closely resembles if not exactly your duty pistol. I owned several Sig’s while on AD for this reason. I know it might seem simple to most, but it still is worth mentioning just in case there is any lingering doubts.

Most pistols ranged from 9mm to 45ACP and the majority were Glocks with a few others such as a Berretta, M&P and a good old M1911. I personally have nothing against any of the modern pistols. I know they all work fine; it really boils down to how well they interface with you and your specific mission. I have come full circle in my thoughts regarding caliber and the bottom line is I don’t give a hairy rat’s ass what you choose. As long as it will go bang every time, you can hit with it and it will penetrate a minimum of 16” I’m good. After all that, I look for magazine capacity, the more the merrier.  Some other considerations would be how much maintenance they require and you can afford along with cost of ammunition and a big one that gets left out of daily-concealed carry options. A gun is better than no gun and a gun you can carry comfortably daily is a home run. I think some folks can get wrapped around the “what if” axle, like well what if the zombies came over the fence while eating dinner. There are no free lunches, which is one of the reasons I have streamlined down to carrying at a minimum a 10 shot carry gun. If it doesn’t carry 10 rounds, accurate out to 25 yards and I cannot conceal it on a hot Texas summer day then it is of little value to me. Whether you agree with me or not isn’t the point, have you thought it through is. It’s a balance, figure out what works for you then make it a religious habit.

More line drills

Most of the holster options were pretty standard, we saw a lot of duty type holsters and since I have been using the Safariland ALS holster I have pretty much retired all my other ones, probably the single greatest improvement in holsters in a very long time. One point to mention is if you have a holster with both the ALS and SLS you need to be practicing on defeating both for those times when the hood “accidental” rolls forward. I know you think it cannot happen, but trust me it happens more than you think. If that is too much, then get rid of it for an ALS only style holster. In my opinion the dual retention system is overkill and very slow. The ALS is a solid retention option and no hardware solution will ever solve a software problem anyhow. We saw a few kydex holsters and something that caught my eye was a few had some rather flared tops or extra material. I watched on several occasions during reholstering how this piece would snag on the inside of the trigger guard slightly. I will have to pay more attention to this to see if it could accidently discharge a weapon, but no incident occurred on the range. Will closely monitor this point.

While the majority ran high capacity magazines we did have a few of the 45ACP with extra capacity features. The biggest problem you can encounter here is not their reliability, but being a bit overzealous on a reload and jamming it too high up into the magazine well. Though most have an over travel stop, they can still get jammed up their pretty hard. When they do, they pretty much render the pistol tango uniform as it can take two people to sort it out. Conversely, slamming a high capacity magazine into the smaller frames of the say the Glock family of guns has yet to produce any problems.

Another gear issue we saw were the fiber optic sights, while they have some appeal they are hard to shoot at distance under sunny conditions. They make it very difficult to see the top of the sight and aim correctly, while up close the error is negligible, it becomes a major issue at distance. One student transitioned to standard front sight and seemed to see his problem diminished, always nice when shooting errors are equipment sensitive and easily rectified.

Another interesting problem that we very rarely see with pistols is rounds that leave the barrel and start to fragment. The target looked like it has been splattered from shooting steel. The pistol functioned fine and was firing manufactured ammunition so not really sure other than you might just find the barrels going out sooner than you expect. While an inconvenience it wasn’t a major issue and more food for thought. It does bring up a major point for me, which is being able to easily repair or maintain firearms. I don’t want to have to go to an armorer’s class if I don’t have to and I especially have issues with gun manufactures that don’t allow the general public to purchase factory replacement parts. While not a major criterion for purchasing a pistol to the general public it is to me. I want something that is reliable first off then when small parts do break are easily repairable in the field.

Small parts breakage issues were present in the class; we saw a factory slide stop break and a recoil spring start to cause malfunctions. I got some post on my Facebook account regarding the merits of some replacement parts. Most argued that certain parts were not needed, that those problems don’t happen. Well, I’m here to tell you we have seen just about every small parts breakage you can see. All of those that get put out as anecdotal in armorer’s class we have seen. You don’t have to do anything, but just because they haven’t happened to you isn’t reason to claim it is not valuable to consider these options. I cannot stand folks who put maybe a thousand rounds down range in a year and make these claims. If you do, put into perspective, in the limited rounds I fire and observe I haven’t’ seen this to be an issue. That I can accept and don’t’ have a problem with, easy day. I will personally put 10x that in an average year and sometimes more, but the major point here is the total round count we see in classes. There are known issues to avoid with preventative maintenance and then there is just having some spare parts available that will suffice. When people ask me in classes I will tell them that no matter make or model these common parts are good to have on hand, a spare recoil spring rod & spring, spare slide stop and spare firing pin. On top of that, you need to devise your own maintenance program/interval. A lot of times factories will put out some recommendations; listen to them and plan accordingly. If you are not keeping a round count log, start or don’t cry about how your gun isn’t working or whatever. If it was made by man, it is fallible, failure to plan is just failure.

The class progressed very well and while TD1 we were a little behind, we spent plenty of time on fundamental diagnostics and it paid off. You can see some students with good skills that have a few limitations due to their existing technique. The big ones brought up in the class was grip, trigger management and first, best sight picture. I see too many people “hold” the gun first off and not actually grip it. You need to grip the gun firmly and with equal pressure from both hands. There is no formula, grip the damn thing like your life depended on it, if it shakes that is too much and back off. The grip is critical so hand/arm strength is important for a consistent grip. I see so many folks who start with a good grip, but after a few shots you can see them start to re-grip. Some don’t know they are doing it and others cannot help it. We talked about the importance of grip strength and a lot of folks asked me what I do to develop my grip strength. It is not about specifically targeting your hand strength. Sure, you can do all the isolated exercises, but the truth of the matter is proper grip is not just based on your hand and forearm, but your entire arm up to the shoulders. It is a mistake to expect that isolated exercises will solve your problem. While they are better than nothing there is a better way…more to follow on this subject.

Trigger management is a subject that we spend a lot of time on during the classes and it seems to pay off. A lot of folks will get it, some will get it consistently and others will chase that idea. I see the most success in students that are paying attention to the details. Breaking things down to their individual parts and focusing on them in a chronological order until it becomes automatic. In the beginning you really have to think your way through the process so as to ensure good technique. Those who did reaped the benefits. After you got the fundamentals down so they are repeatable on demand, then you next need to go as fast as you can within the accuracy standards set forth, or another way to think of it is “high speed fundamentals”. Trigger finger location, placement and movement are all individual to each student. It takes some time to figure it out and while we have a baseline to start a lot of times folks expect do what I do or they will ask what I do. I’m happy to give them my technique, but you will have to sort out what works for you. A major reason why we use principles is for this reason. Once you understand the principles, you will figure out a way to achieve them. Who am I to judge how you meet them, that’s on you.

I love to see the expression or comments from a student when they figure out the “first, best sight picture”. They are so baffled at first then the more they work with it, they better they get it. All the time you spend trying to perfect your sight picture will be wasted when the pressure mounts and you jerk the trigger anyhow. Not to say sight picture isn’t important, but you will need to define what an acceptable sight picture is and go with it. For us, if it is inside the 8” zone it is good enough. Your sight picture will not get better as time elapses, you might think so right up to the point you mash the crap out of the trigger.

We finished up a little late on TD1, but it was all good.

Micro instruction on the line.

We started out TD2 with some diagnostic work and you could see the gap widen between those who got it and those who are still searching for it. We also had one student who got sick and played hooky. It was worth it as he came back strong on TD3, you could see how if he wasn’t sick the improvement from all three days would have been very valuable, but he still was able to make some huge gains.

We got to our movement drills and how I love shooting while moving. I mean come on, aside from the realistic applications it is just fun as hell. I miss our Proficiency Modules where we would work on specific skills such as shooting on the move, strong hand only, multiple threats to name a few. Here the class gets a good dosage of SOM and we saw some pretty good results. Again, first, best sight picture and trigger management are the keys.

We covered ammunition management and this becomes so very important with pistols since most in my opinion are low capacity compared to a carbine magazine. The lower capacity means ammunition management is even more important. You can only do so much and the single stacks have to do double duty here, but at a certain point the concept of ammo management means you try to avoid running dry, but if you do your combat reload needs to be dead nuts on.

I was really happy during one of the warm up drills how we had a good portion of the class complete it from start to finish with 100% accuracy, a lot easier said than done for sure. They key is concentration, consistency and efficiency. Those were the common ingredients for those who succeeded in this drill. They should be the baseline for everything we do, you need to have a high level of concentration, almost to the point of mental toughness. You have to think your way through a lot of these drills if you want to do well. Once you are paying attention, then consistency starts to get easier and easier to the point you just become efficient with everything you do, your movements, your technique and your overall performance.

We finished the day off with a head to head competition and it was surprising to see so many people have a hard time with this drill. Shooting steel is a blast, but some folks let bad habits back into the picture. Those who can follow the concentration, consistently and efficiency formula always do well. We wrapped up another kick ass day, we were even early…awesome.

TD3 started out with a full muster and some more diagnostic work. You could really see some huge improvements at this point; things were really starting to click. When you talk to those students you can hear they now get it, they are self aware and self-correcting. Very nice!

We worked some strong hand only, which I also enjoy doing. I love this drill because it really forces the student to apply solid fundamentals, mainly trigger management. You can see when they do and easily see when they don’t. There are also less variable to account for so streamlining the culprit is pretty easy SHO.

In the afternoon we had more fun, we did a small stress course that required some physical effort and a lot of folks recognized their own deficiencies and the good part is knowing, the hard part is fixing them. Again, the conversation came up about what I do and my philosophy is to maintain a certain level of fitness then to have a supporting plan that works to help my shooting specifically. It has been very successful for me so much that I think more folks would benefit from it.

We setup for our Marksmanship drill, where students attempt to earn their marksmanship ranking. It is tough, but totally doable. We had a lot make the first round, but only complete the second round so we were able to award one marksmanship badge in this class. That was awesome, he totally earned it…bravo zulu.

We setup for the final test then started our debrief. A lot of good stuff was put out in the debrief and I look forward to heading back to Gainesville for our Combative Carbine, L2 this fall. If this class was any indicator it will be an awesome time so I look forward to seeing some familiar faces.

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