A few years ago we took the Conceal Carry for Self Defense class presented by John Murphy of FPF Training. That two day class focused on basic pistol handling skills and the self defense mindset. This past weekend we attended the follow up to the CCSD class, Advanced Concealed Carry Tactics. This two day course is designed to reinforce the defensive mindset and to develop more advanced pistol handling skills.
Our class consisted of eight students, six men and two ladies. One of John's assistants, Ryan, was also there so we were always assured of individual attention. The course is conducted on a "hot range." That means guns are always loaded and safety awareness is paramount. Participants are expected to be ready to "fight" at any time. Coming to the line with an empty weapon or not ready to perform the drills on demand is met with proper "correction." Weapon malfunctions, reloads, or other issues are to be dealt with as needed to get back in the game and "solve your problem." In real life there are no timeouts to fix a gun. Participants are continually reminded of the swift nature of violent attacks and the need for explosive speed in the response. There are many scenario drills — conducted as a class, in smaller groups, and individually. John also reminds us that not all encounters will end in violence, and indeed sometimes the scenario ends in just walking away.
The weekend started off with a review of basic pistol handling skills. We all faced the timer on the range to see where we were in regard to getting fast hits on target from concealment. This is a concealed carry class, so most exercises start with a draw from concealment. Movement is also a requirement on most drills. After all, in the real world, the targets don't stand still, and they often shoot back. We were also tested on our precision shooting capabilities. We worked on both strong hand and weak hand only skills. This training included dealing with various malfunctions and reloading, all done using just one hand.
After the first day of class we had a quick dinner at a local restaurant and then spent the evening cleaning guns in the hotel room. It's just as important that your weapon be in shape as it is you. Any issues with the gun will be brought out quickly during the stress of the class.
Day 2 was focused on more advanced skills and many more scenario based drills. All new skills are explained and then demonstrated by the instructor. For the more complicated activities we "air gunned" before executing with live fire. We dealt with multiple targets, shooting from kneeling and prone positions, shooting under (simulated) cars and around barricades. There were also moving targets to engage. We spent a lot of time developing the explosive and unexpected reaction called for when confronted by an assailant. John requires students to use vocalization, both before, during and after an event. Even though the individual drills last only a few seconds, the stress of performing in front of the class, combined with the pressure created by the instructor voicing the part of an assailant, often in a very "colorful" manner, creates a situation that will quickly bring out your weaknesses, as well as the satisfaction of getting it done right. We were constantly reminded to visualize not being on a range, but in a parking lot, a store, and with loved ones or other people around us.
Several times throughout the weekend we did slow fire drills from the 25 yard line. Switching between "fast and furious" and "slow and precise" shooting kept us focused on the moment. While it will be very rare, if ever, that shooting in self defense is justified from that distance, this exercise reinforces the sights and trigger discipline needed for accurate shot placement at any distance. I did better at these drills as the weekend progressed. Walking up to the target afterwards and seeing holes in that 8" circle was a good feeling. And, in the name of transparency, I must say that Colleen frequently beat me at this exercise, and she brought home one of her targets as a new piece of refrigerator art.
Each day included a fun elimination competition among students and instructors when we shot steel targets from increasing distances. Hitting at least two of the three shots was required to move on to the next round. Starting at 10 yards, then 15, 25, 40. I dropped out at 25 the first day, and 40 yards the second. Finally we moved back beyond the 50 yard line and everyone got to shoot again, including those who had been eliminated. At that distance I hit 2 for 3 the first day, and 1 for 3 the second. This was by far the furthest pistol shot I have ever attempted, so hearing the steel ring, if only a few times, was a thrill.
There was so much going on in the class that I can't begin to list it all here. Nor would I, in all fairness. There is much to be learned from the unexpected, so I'll leave the details for you to discover if you are able to take a class from FPF Training.
I must admit to having had some trepidation going into the weekend. I recall the stressful moments in the first course. John is very adept at inducing mental tension in the student. But the entire point is to teach you how to react in stressful, dynamic situations. Remember, we're talking life-saving skills here. Perform well and earn (brief) praise. Perform subpar and expect to get some "love" from John. (I experienced a bit of both over the course of the weekend.) His teaching is designed to push you out of your comfort zone. It was a long and tiring weekend. We spent 8 hours on the range each day. I left with some valuable skills to practice, and more than a few aching muscles and bruises. And I will most definitely do it again in the future.
A common theme on gun blogs and forums is whether competition shooting helps or hinders self defense skills. I realized some points this weekend that would fall on both sides of the argument. The real secret is keeping your head in the right place. I'll write a post in the future specifically about my experience in the class as it relates to the habits and skills learned in the action pistol sports.
If you are a concealed carrier, or carry a gun for protection at any time, you owe it to yourself and those around you to be proficient in using that weapon. Just getting the permit and spending time putting holes in paper isn't enough. In fact, I would dare say that stopping at that could even be considered irresponsible. You must get good training, and keep up your skills. It's work, but it can also be fun. Someday, for one brief moment in time, when things have gone horribly wrong, it may well prove to be the most important thing you've ever learned to do.