Basic Pistol Review

Originally posted at:

AAR – Hardwired Tactical Shooting (HiTS) Basic Pistol, Dallas Texas November 10-11, 2012

I attended the Basic Pistol class last weekend. The instructors were Wayne Dobbs and Nyeti, both are contributors here. Their bios can be found here:

There was another AAR of their First Responder class here:

Nyeti’s definition of first responder: “When someone breaks into your house at 3 am, you are now the first responder.”

This class took place at a very nice range in the Dallas area. It was easy to access with great facilities. Weather was a factor, but not disruptive. We had winds on day one that stayed 20 MPH all day, and gusted to 40. We had some rain on day two, but worked around it. 

But I will say it’s really fun to work an “El Snatcho virus” drill with an empty 9mm case, with a 30 MPH wind. 

Why this class? I had taken classes before, but wanted a “hard reboot”. I’m completely starting over, and building a new foundation. I want to eliminate all bad habits, training scars, and epic failure and stupidity. I have all four of those in abundance, and am not satisfied with how I shoot. I suck with a pistol, and want to be a lot better. 

I took gear I had used in previous class and range sessions. I did not test any new equipment at all, and just wanted to focus on safety, and the instruction. 

I shot a well-used Glock Gen3 G19 with a bunch of rounds through it, and mags that had been through multiple range sessions without issue. I had added Ameriglo Hackathorn sights which work well for me, and Vickers Tactical parts. For carry gear, I used an RCS Phantom holster, Eagle mag pouches, a TAG belt and CSM Gear mini drop pouch. I kept a Surefire X300 on the pistol for the entire class to periodically check smoke buildup on the lens. I used Froglube on the pistol. Ammo was S&B 115 grain 9mm from Cabela’s. With the exception of the ammo, it’s my regular carry pistol and holster. No issues at all with the gear used or ammo fired.

The students had a mixture of Glock 9mm pistols and one Glock .40 pistol. There were also several M&P’s in 9mm, along with one M&P Shield 9mm. Lots of Blade-Tech holsters, and only one Fobus. No nylon Uncle Mike’s crap holsters or Wally World belts. No issues occurred with other student’s pistols that I observed. Everyone used decent ammo, instead of “Cousin Bubba’s Reloadz”. No steel-cased Rooshin ammo, either.

There were five students, and an interesting mix. Three women and two men. Two of the students were a young married couple, both aerospace engineers. (Yes, she is a rocket scientist.) The two other students were mature women who were new to defensive pistol work, but definitely comfortable and used to guns. Bird hunting stories were exchanged over lunch. 

From a student’s perspective, this was a great deal. We had two instructors for five students, the best ratio I have ever had in a basic pistol class. 

Day 1 started with a thorough and well-written safety brief. The instructors take safety very seriously. There have been several recent incidents locally where a student and an instructor have been wounded through ND’s. This was discussed in the class, and it was explained how the violations of the four safety rules led to these injuries. 

I think it was a very good safety brief. Remember, this was a basic pistol class, and likely the first formal instruction these shooters have had. We have all experienced unsafe shooters at a range, gun store, or gun show. Stupidity knows no barriers, with respect to age, race, education, etc. So I thought it was an excellent idea, to have a comprehensive discussion of this type. The payoff was on the range. Muzzles were always downrange, and people were not swept by accident. Good habits got baked in. THIS IS A GOOD THING. I really hope they keep this part of the class as it evolves.

This was not a “Load ‘em up and hose ‘em up” class. They wanted you to think about each firing decision. For me, this was very beneficial. Some of the first formal pistol classes I had were in the military, decades ago. My first personal weapon training consisted of a Centurian planted a sandal in my backside, because I was not holding my gladius high enough. I was trained that if I pulled a pistol from the holster, I was shooting someone immediately afterwards. Clearly, this is NOT a good thing for a civilian, or even a military person. 

Which leads me to a fascinating drill they did. I am not going to describe it, because it would ruin its effectiveness for future students. But it was a great shoot/no shoot drill, and taught the entire class another great lesson. The drill worked, and we all got a very important lesson. 

We covered safely loading and unloading pistols, safe holstering, sight alignment and sight picture, flash sight picture, trigger control and trigger reset, plus a lot more. Wayne gave an excellent demo on trigger control that was literally “hands-on”, while Neyti provided feedback on the shooter’s target. Then they would switch. Nyeti also had a SIRT pistol, which he used as a diagnostic tool with the students. 

I think everyone appreciated Wayne and Nyeti demo’ing all the drills, and switching off. It kept the student’s constantly thinking, which can be a challenge as people get tired. We always stayed mentally engaged.

We shot from 3 to 15 yards over the two days. We shot from several ready positions, and also from the holster. One of the last things we did was a walk-back drill, and stopped at 15 yards. That’s warm-up distance for a lot of you folks. But remember, this was a basic class with a couple of students approaching 70 years of age. 

It’s very easy for somebody wearing yellow shooting glasses and a whistle to bellow “Front site – press!” It’s a lot harder for a teacher to work with you through specific drills and tips to make you a better shooter. They did that, safely and effectively.

Other pluses: 

Thinking: Both instructors were very good about giving a thought-provoking nugget or tip before a drill. This served to get the student’s switched back on mentally and renew their focus. I wrote these down, to review in the future.

Safety as a process: I like the safety checks they did. Each student was required to check another student’s pistols. It made safety an interactive process, and reduced potential issues. It never slowed down the class. It’s not a rote mechanical process, when you have to look and verify someone else’s chamber and magazine well.

No Powerpoint!! Hooray! There was classroom discussion with material drawn on a whiteboard. I like that; you work the class through the diagram in an interactive manner. But they never stuck a cold, wet class in a room, turned off the lights after lunch, and expected everyone to stay awake while they went outside for a smoke break. I’ve seen precisely that before, and it’s hideous. 

Lead a class or be led: An instructor can lead a class, or be led by them. These guys did a very good job of “the teachable moment.” A question is asked, or a situation presents itself that gives them an opportunity to present training. On the fly, they could demonstrate a technique on the range, or answer in discussion. I have been to classes where we got endlessly sidetracked, and everyone became bored or frustrated. We got a lot of great info, and still stayed on track. 

Experience: You are paying instructors for their knowledge, skill and experience. They have decades of experience, and have taught for years. They also gave credit where credit is due. A student would ask a question, or display a certain issue in their shooting. “Hey, here’s a tip I learned from so and so, and I think it might help you too. Let’s do this….” And how often do you get to have a lunch discussion with two former cops and trainers with that much experience? Sadly, not very often in my case.

Sharing that experience effectively: You received the benefit of their experience, and it was shared in a positive manner without braggadocio. You never got the “There I was – knee deep in grenade rings and down to my last Powerbar.” What you did get was “Here is a situation that may arise. These are indicators to watch for. Do not do this, and here’s why. Here is advice on how to be successful, and avoid a fight. But if you do fight, here’s how you prevail.” Again, that is what I am paying for, the lessons learned from experience.

Useful nuggets: I wrote down four pages of notes during and after the class. A lot are tips on drills, and mental notes to myself. I am not going to specifically describe them, I think these guys should work you through them. It’s much better that way for student and teacher. Plus, it’s how they pay their rent, and I’m not stealing food from anybody’s mouth. 

A way, not the way: The only thing they were dogmatic about is safety. First, last and always – safety is observed. On stance and many other issues, they work with a student to find a useable method. What works for the 30-year-old fit male student would not work for the 70-year-old grandmother that was in the class. But both were successful, and received tailored info.

Building good class habits: Students were given timed breaks. They were encouraged to eat and hydrate. If you were not shooting, you were reloading mags, drinking water or talking with the instructors. Whoever gets these students at their next class will have a better student to teach.

Pictures: I did not take any pictures of the class, as I did not ask permission of the instructors or students beforehand. 

Customer service: I slipped Wayne and Darryl an extra 20 bucks during class, so they would burn my targets and not post them on Facebook. That was very kind of them. (Joke, no money was exchanged) During of the class, I shook like an epileptic 7-year-old in an earthquake. I sucked badly at the start, but shoot better now. Goal achieved.

Continuous learning: Both instructors asked the students to sit down and think about the class, then email them a suggestion on how they could improve the class. I have been to training where you quickly figured out it was stale content, and the instructor was just regurgitating. These guys are always seeking to improve. 

Verdict: I am very happy with the money and especially the time I spent. I have taken three other basic pistol classes from other instructors. I did another CHL refresher the weekend before, with some basic pistol thrown in. This was definitely the best of the four classes. I will be taking their First Responder pistol class next year, as soon as I can arrange the time.


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