Top Five Lessons Learned in Training

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Editor’s Note: The following is a post by Mark Kakkuri, a nationally published freelance writer who covers guns and gear, 2nd Amendment issues and the outdoors. His writing and photography have appeared in many firearms-related publications, including the USCCA’s Concealed Carry Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @markkakkuri.

Read Mark’s previous articles in this “Top Five” series:

In Handgun 1 and 2 at Close Quarters Combat in Shelby Township, Michigan, I learned five valuable lessons. None of these are really new, but all are important and, taken together, constitute an important mindset and an effective collection of skills.

1. Practice safety first and last and always

Basic gun safety rules are always in effect and they always apply. They are always to be considered and they are always to be followed. Even when you empty your gun and are about to go into a dedicated practice area with just a handful of snap caps — and even after the instructor has visually inspected each student’s gun and patted each student down to make sure no live ammo is entering the practice area — all the safety rules still apply.

In the practice area with real guns but only snap caps in our mags, the instructor had us form a circle, facing each other, and then ordered all of us to do a 180 before we unholstered our guns. All the drills conducted for the next hour took place in this formation: students facing out, guns pointed out, all safety rules in effect. Drawing your gun? Do so methodically, trigger finger along the side of the holster. Holstering your gun? Do so methodically, slowly inserting your gun into the holster while your trigger finger finds the outside of the holster. Practicing a drill? Again, methodically, thinking through each step until mastery increased, allowing speed to increase. Even blue guns used for demonstration purposes were treated like real guns: always pointed in a safe direction, finger off trigger, etc.

2. Practice proper draw and grip

It was this four-step process, again and again: Grasping your holstered handgun with a firm and sure grip, drawing the gun straight up, pivoting the gun so the muzzle pointed toward your target and then extending your strong hand out while your weak hand met it on the way. With two hands on your gun, pointing it at your target, your strong hand grasped the gun’s stocks and your weak hand grasped the gun from the opposite side, rotated forward so that your weak hand thumb was up on the slide and a lot of skin from thumb to the base of your palm was on the gun. The weak hand applied about 70 percent of the squeeze on the gun while the strong hand supplied the remaining 30 percent. This allowed for a somewhat relaxed trigger finger but also allowed two hands to provide a grip that centered the gun perfectly between them. Got that mastered? Good! Now practice switching from strong hand to weak hand.

3. Practice manipulating your gun in your workspace

Inserting a magazine into a gun, chambering a round from slide lock, performing a tactical reload, examining a malfunction and more. All these occurred in the area known as your “workspace” — the area right in front of your face, about a foot away from your nose. Bringing the gun up to this area allows you to not only see what’s happening with your gun but also to keep your head up. This allows you to use your peripheral vision to keep an eye on your surroundings, which means that now you can keep an eye on whether you need to do something different than what you’re doing, which can allow you to do something that can keep you alive.

4. Practice handling malfunctions and always look around

Loading up snap caps and starting from a self-induced malfunction allows you to get a feel for handling your gun when something goes wrong. If you squeeze the trigger and all you hear is “click,” what do you do? What if you get no movement on the trigger at all? How fast can you apply a fix, chamber a fresh round and get back in the fight? You’ll never know unless you practice. Time yourself. Set goals for improving your speed and accuracy. Work slowly first and then speed up as mastery improves. While you’re trying to keep your head on straight during these maneuvers, always be sure to look around; don’t get lost in the gun. Don’t look down or away in such a fashion that you lose awareness of the area. If you squeeze off a round or two, consciously and deliberately look to the right and the left to see if you face additional threats, and when you look, actually be LOOKING.

5. Practice, practice, practice to get your hands used to practicing

One long day of training revealed a key point: My hands are not used to the rigor of hard training. Granted, I will likely not face a sustained firefight with my handgun nor will I have to manipulate my gun for more than eight hours. But my hands should be in a condition that could handle hard use of my pistol, whatever that might be. Durability of hands aside, just the simple act of practicing clarified that I need to practice more. My hands should move automatically, as it were, to efficiently and effectively manipulate my gun. That won’t happen without practice.

Each of these points have multiple sub-points worth considering.

  • I trained on a Glock 19, a gun I carry a lot. But I sometimes also like to carry a lightweight revolver. Will I practice the very different loading and reloading techniques for it?
  • If I’m going to practice my draw, I should practice drawing from the holster I’ll use for my normal daily carry. The Kydex paddle holster I used during training is great; it likely won’t be the holster on my hip when I’m done training. Which holster do I use most often? Will it make it into the practice regime?
  • When will my next practice session actually occur? Is it scheduled as a dedicated event, or will it just be an add-on to a range session? Will I switch from strong hand to weak hand? Will I actually use snap caps to train on malfunctions during the course of shooting?
  • Do I practice looking around for additional threats when I’m shooting at the range? Do I practice good situational awareness at all?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to practice, practice, practice.

For more critical information on the use of deadly force and other firearms and self-defense topics, visit www.uscca.com/GunsAmerica.

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • A. G. McEntire August 11, 2017, 10:32 am

    I don’t understand “examining the malfunction ” . When a handgun malfunctions one should immediately do a malfunction clearance drill. There is nothing to examine. Thanks. Glen

  • Vic vapor August 11, 2017, 9:17 am

    patting them down to see if they’re bringing ammo into a no ammo zone.
    I think I don’t want that person in my group if they find some.

  • Rick August 11, 2017, 7:02 am

    Regarding tip #1 and the students in a circle: I certainly hope that each student was aiming their handgun in a safe direction. Just sayin’. If each gun was treated as if it was loaded, you would have to think about what was on the other side of those walls. Oh, and I suspect that cleaning after the class was problematic as well. You wouldn’t want to shove a rod into a barrel with a round in the chamber/chambers.

  • TRUBRIT August 10, 2017, 10:14 am

    These five things say it all. No need to complicate things further. Dry Practice is key. Item 4 is a particular peeve of mine when I see people performing mag changes close to the body and bringing their weapon off line and looking down at the weapon. Your eyes should always be down range checking the existing threat or looking for new ones. Weapon manipulation should be instinctive. This article should be a ‘sticky’ on this site and should be repeated on a regular basis 😉

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