Trident Concepts conducted their first Combative Pistol, Level One class in CENTEX this past Memorial Day weekend. The class was made up of students from all walks of life and gender, old and young. The class is an introduction to the Combative Pistol and as such basic in nature, but there is nothing quite like the fundamentals mastered then executed faster than the bad guy. With that being said, we had several very strong shooters many that would have done very well in the L2 class in fact one student had taken the L2, but come back for the L1. One student in particular had a great attitude, while looking over his application I read through the various schools. In an effort to make sure he didn’t’ waste his money I spoke with him over the phone and voiced my concern. His reply was he felt it was important to get the instructor’s take on the basics before committing to anything else. Very nicely said and a strong shooter throughout the class.

The summer is upon for sure, temperatures got up to the low 90’s, but the humidity was pretty high as well. Many folks brought some of the EZ-up canopies, which helped out tremendously. Without them it would have made for a very hard time reaching our objectives. As mentioned in previous debriefs the weather is always a variable. Here we had to take more breaks, hydrate more and increase the level of concentration to keep our training safe. Everybody did a great job and once we found our groove we were able to accomplish a lot. One of the problems that everyone had to deal with was excessive sweating and how it affected your grip and subsequently recoil management. The grip is super important and we teach a cascading grip that when applied correctly is very powerful. Many students had a hard time with the higher round count drills with re-gripping. There were even a few students who didn’t even know they had a re-gripping issue. If you cannot maintain a powerful grip for one full magazine you really need to take a look at what is going on there, that would be a clue.

We didn’t see many gear related issues, but the ones we saw were pretty big. One student had a kydex magazine pouch that utilized a belt clip for mounting. This clip was warped to the point the body of the magazine totally separated from the clip. I had experienced the same exact problem with my magazine pouch. I couldn’t figure out what was happening other than my body was pushing on the top of the magazine and forcing the clip to separate from the constant tension. The student didn’t think that was the cause, but it happened to him on TD2 as well. I contacted the company in an effort to work with them, but I got an “out of warranty” response. I placed the whole line in my “warranty bin”, which just so happens to double as my trashcan.

The other problem we saw was a student firing a striker-fired pistol was experiencing several light strikes. The student had taken good care of the pistol and fired several thousand rounds and was asking what could be the problem. Upon inspection it looked well maintained so nothing really came out and in the past when I have seen this problem a recoil spring replacement is in order, but the student followed an industry standard for replacement so that was out. About the only thing it could be is something we don’t see often and that is an oiled up firing pin channel. If enough oil over time is either applied or seeps into the channel it will congeal and cause enough friction to slow down the forward travel and thus create the light strikes. Lesson here is do not apply oil to your firing pin channel and periodically clean it out to make sure it is dry.

One student had brought some reloaded ammunition that was “professionally” reloaded. I’m not sure exactly what that meant, but he continued to have malfunctions as a result of the ammunition. As an experienced student he brought additional loads of ammunition and it seemed to fix the problem immediately. It is so important to try and avoid this type of mistake. While it may save you on the front end, it costs you on the back end. I feel he missed out on several good training opportunities as he continued to work through the various malfunctions he experienced.

While not technically a gear issue, one student had difficulty obtaining the optimal grip on his pistol. The problem was his grip was high on the gun, forcing him to have a downward angled direction with his trigger finger. So, it basically wasn’t able to squeeze straight back to the rear, but instead downward and to the left. Ironically he had mentioned he had always had problems shooting at distance and placing rounds to the left, but didn’t have that problem up close. I ventured a guess he did, but just didn’t recognize it. As we worked to adjust his grip and finger placement you could see the improvement, but it had to unlearn something that was buried deep in his technique. When we went from a distance drill to a close up drill you could easily see his shot group up close slightly left and he eventually saw the same thing and that helped him to slow down and apply better technique. His comment after the final test was very enlightened. I cannot remember the exact words, but something to the effect of slowing down and thinking about this trigger allowed him to correct. He was very happy with the results as he shot a perfect score on the last test, Bravo Zulu.

We still see lots of different sights come through the class and the older I get the more I appreciate the DeltaPoint I have been using for a while now. Such an easy sight to use and while my round count is not high enough to make an informed opinion it is close enough to where I see most of my initial concerns have been addressed. Iron sights on the other had are still the primary option for the large majority of students and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. While I will expect to see several manufactures including a notched slide option in the future, we got some time before that happens. The iron sights we saw were all from quality manufactures, but it is still frustrating to see people use them incorrectly by focusing on the dot and not the top of the front sight. I’m OK if that is how you do it, just realize it will affect your accuracy as you go back in distance. But hey, if you can flat out not see the damn sights then anything is better than missing because you cannot see the whole front sight.

We start this class out with what we call our Warrior Mindset brief. As part of our linear progressive program structure we want a students first look at our programs to have this as part of their experience. I believe it so sets the tone for what we are doing and why. This was a brief that while working for the government after AD I got roped into giving at just about every location I found myself. There is nothing earth shattering, but it does compress several major issues into one segment. It definitely set the tone for what we would accomplish.

The rest of the morning we would spend working on the fundamentals, high-speed fundamentals. We talked about stance, mount and grips and then put them to practice. Stance is easy enough to fix, just have people moving and they naturally get into a more athletic stance as opposed to toeing the line mentality. Mounting the pistol is more difficult; many folks will roll their shoulders up. Rolling the shoulders up disengages the arms from the back and places all the recoil management in the shoulders. Some guys can get away with it because they have more mass, but solid technique doesn’t require mass to be effective. Instead we try to get folks to engage their back and core muscles. It is always a good idea to implement larger muscle groups over smaller ones.

We really worked on building a solid base through marksmanship fundamentals and the thing about fundamentals is they don’t really change, their application may vary, but they remain largely unchanged. The purpose of many of our drills is to habituate correct technique, then repeat that several times to get it to the point where it no longer requires thought to be employed. Shooting is the sum of many small parts and shooting is an act that requires attention to detail. You have to shoot in the present tense, which means the system when applied correctly allows the student to chronologically apply correct technique and produce a hit. When you don’t apply correct technique or correct technique, but at the wrong time it is hard to see that hit consistently. Consistency is the final piece of the puzzle.

We spent most of the day working at close ranges, but so many times this can lead to a false sense of security. Like driving a car, there are certain gross and fine motor skills that must all be applied at various times and while maintaining focus on the big picture. Sometimes shooting up close doesn’t really help a student to grow as they may have several bad habits that are masked at closer ranges. I hear many students comment how they are a good shot, well if you were truly a good shot then distance wouldn’t matter because you have correct skill and experience to take the shot. That is not always the case so when we push it back to 25 yards we hear a lot of complaining. Get it out of your system early because it highlights inconsistency and technique errors better than just about any other drill we can do. Then once we correct those issues the student’s technique is solidly forged. That wrapped up TD1 so we called it a day.

TD2 started off with some more distance work to diagnosis shooting errors. On TD1 who wasn’t even hitting the paper at 25 yards, yet he was doing well enough at the closer ranges. With each passing evolution at distance, you literally watched him walk his rounds closer and closer to the center of the target until all of a sudden he places an excellent group smack dap in the middle of the target. Almost perfect! That drill impacted him probably more than any other one we would do or did in the class. He was able to quite his brain enough to see only what he needed to, maintain control of the pistol and apply fundamentals consistently. It was pretty damn awesome to say the least.

This class is a lot about progressions and we try to get folks to hit the gas, and then apply the breaks. Hit the gas to push their capabilities and apply the brakes when they reach their limits. We have a few drills that do an excellent job here and one of them is a graded drill. It really stresses consistency more than anything, consistently apply the fundamentals and you will do well. Don’t and your shooting suffers. The one thing I kept seeing not being consistently applies was follow through, this is a drill that you so need to follow through in order to be consistent. That is the key, follow through equals consistency and consistency equals accuracy.

We shifted to shooting steel for a large majority of the afternoon and even on the steel target you could see the bullet impacts low and left, very indicative of trigger management issues. Once students were able to concentrate more on the trigger management they saw better results. Of course, shooting steel is not without it’s problems. The two biggest ones are shooters that out run their headlights. They literally are not applying fundamentals from shot to shot; they are just slapping the trigger. The next one goes hand in hand, which is they are popping off their sights or never looking at them from the beginning. You have to be careful when you introduce steel so as to reinforce good technique and not replicate bad technique.

What would a shooting class be without a little head to head competition and this class was no different. It was a bit difficult to figure out who was going to win this one, but one student stood out amongst the rest, he settled down and took his time and produced more hits and the win. Nice job!

All in all, it was a great class. I really enjoyed working with students of all skill levels; it keeps me challenged and forces me to keep them challenged. Occasionally, I would test some of the students with some tougher standards just to keep them honest. The debrief points were all great and repeated from class to class. I’m looking forward to running more and more of these classes in the future, so spread the word and we will keep you all posted.

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