Training Time: The value of individual private lessons.
Admittedly this article is going to seem self-serving. After all I own a firearms training company and have grown revenue through private training. That being said I intend to emphasize a few key points regarding your firearms training path. To put it bluntly I think every serious practitioner of defensive firearm shooting should invest in private coaching or training. This of course does not mean that private coaching should replace competition, dry fire, group classes, reading, or any other form of research or education.
The benefits would seem obvious however if you ask your average trainer you will find a gap in folks taking advantage of private training. I have had the privilege of offering this service to plenty of clients and the overwhelming majority of them simply don’t seem to know that firearms training is available in this format. They are used to the weekend warrior 16 hour format. Don’t get me wrong I have a great respect for that format, I teach that format, and most importantly I have logged a good number of hours as a student in that format.
People are exceedingly busy these days. There are only 52 weekends on a calendar in a given year. Many of those are taken up with children’s activities, family events, weddings, and other requirements. Asking folks to take multiple weekends a year to devote to firearms training is a difficult proposition at best. As trainers we have to realize that the average student may be able to devote at best one or two weekends to this proposition.
From the student prospective individual private training presents a unique opportunity. In a private lesson format a trainer is devoting his or her full attention to you. The trainer is also able to present curriculum that is tailored to your individual needs. A good trainer will then help you implement a practice regiment and be there to support you down the road in your continued training needs. In this way the experience can be individualized and customized to fit exactly what you as a shooter need.
Group classes require a trainer to convey the same curriculum to as many as 16 of you throughout the weekend. Every individual student is just that…..an individual. This means that all 16 students in a class will come with their own individual needs and difficulties. There are no two ways about it. Good instructors split up the classes into relays of like students, use the Socratic method to spark discussion that helps convey points, and are adept at teaching to multiple types of adult learners in one lesson. All that being said there is nothing quite like individual attention.
The other benefits become more apparent the further we dig. Private training costs considerably more per hour but can be chunked into smaller more digestible segments. Also the cost benefit analysis should really take into account the direct attention that the instructor is able to pay you as a student. Most of my private students get way more than their moneys worth when they are able to take me up ion this format. Logistical costs are also worth considering. Private students don’t need to consider travel, meals, or lodging assuming they find a local coach to work with.
Private students also tend to progress faster. This means they spend less time, money, and ammunition on skill development as compared to other traditional weekend students. One sad reality of firearms training is that many folks can basically only afford to take weekend classes. I have worked with folks who have taken training from some excellent instructors but haven’t been able to afford to sustain their skills. After all the human animal learns through immersion. Someone who has taken 6 weekend classes every year and done nothing else to sharpen their skills would probably benefit from 2 weekend classes and 4 hours of private training weekend a month.
This is not to diminish the value of group classes at all. After all we sell those as well. For many of you devoting time to a private training program simply will not be possible. That is why we have broken up our group classes into essential chunks. Even in that format we still give you the homework to do and the rescourses to do it well. We simply have to rely on you as the student to be dilligant in that homework in order to improve your skillset.
Here at GMD metrics are key. Students need attainable benchmarks and a way to track their progress. It has always been my stated goal to give folks homework and to help shape their personal training and practice program. With that said this document will serve as something to be continually referenced for firearms practice and standards. If it hasn’t been made clear up to this point the student should realize that very few of the standards or drills are entirely my creation. Some things if anything are a variation or a repurpose of something I found value in from another trainer. For that reason if something we are doing comes directly from someone else I will notate it here and directly link to their content. This is about giving credit where credit is due. The idea is to share quality and to increase folks overall proficiency as shooters.
Below you will find a list of the standards, a link to the appropriate content to support them, and a brief description from me on why I see value in attaining these standards. This will become a living document and continue to be modified as time goes on.
Standard 1 The Test
This is often referred to as the Vickers Test, The Hackathorn Test, 10-10-10 or any number of other things. It is said to have been developed by Larry Vickers and Ken Hackathorn. If you don’t know those names you should probably invest some time on the Google Monster. The drill is done on a B8 Target. The shooter starts at low ready shooting on a timer 10 rounds from 10 yards in under 10 seconds. The stated goal is to have all rounds inside the black of the B8. Recoil control, cadence, and trigger mechanics are all important here. The standard is unforgiving and will take discipline to master. Once you can get all rounds inside the black shoot for all 10s. Once you can hit all 10s add a draw. Once you can add the draw you can advance to the “super test.” My take on the super test can be found here…..
Standard 2 IDPA 5x5 Classifier
Talk is cheap and classifiers live forever. I’m not here to start the gamers vs Timmeys argument all over again. If you’ve only ever been a gamer you owe it to yourself to get some defensive training knowledge. If you’ve only ever taken defensive training sign up for a match and put your skills to the test against an 80 year old retired teacher with an oxygen tank. When he beats you ask yourself why and fix that shit. This is the classifier that IDPA uses to measure and rank their competitors. Below is a link to my take on it as well as an official link to it on IDPA’s website. I don’t know who to attribute it to in IDPA but someone came up with an idea to streamline their classifier system and it does make sense. Now they just have to let me shoot it from appendix with a weapon light and a 17 round mag!
Standard 3 Modern Samurai Project Black Belt Standards.
Scott Jedlinski is the Chief Instructor over at MSP. He has built a successful business for himself using a unique style of teaching more similar to martial arts professor, than a firearms trainer with a bullhorn, whistle, and sharpie. He has taken the idea of mastering individual chunks of skill to a new level and teaches students how to attain mastery with the red dot pistol both from an ALS style duty holsters and modern ccw appendix gear.
His blackbelt standards combine draw speed, accuracy, recoil control, emotional control, and consistency. You either have the patch or you don’t (I don’t…..yet). As a matter of fact very few people do. That isn’t because he doesn’t train enough people.. I think he runs somewhere around 70 full classes a year with an average of 16 students per. That’s a lot of attempts at the black belt patch and very few successes. I was lucky enough to witness Mark Mandel earn his during one of Scott’s classes I hosted.
Head on over and give them a whirl for yourself……….
Standard 4 Dot Torture
Yay for torture. Boy doesn’t that sound fun. I mean why wouldn’t I want to spend time at the range torturing myself? Well if it was easy everyone would do it. I mean what’s so hard about standing still at 3, 5, or god forbid even 10 yards and trying to hit little dots with a pistol while doing manipulations? This one tests patience, concentration, accuracy, and your abilities with the support hand. Once you clear it at 3 move back to 5. Once you clear it at 5 move back to 7. Once you clear it at 7 move back to 10. Once you clear it at 10……don’t lie you didn’t clear that shit at 10. This is another one of those that I didn’t know who to attribute to at first.
Apparently at least according to this https://tacticalprofessor.wordpress.com/2018/07/27/the-origin-and-evolution-of-dot-torture/it was created by a gentlemen named David Blinder.
Check out this video by Lucky Gunner on the subject.
Standard 5 Manipulations
This is a good time to bring up the concept of 20% skills. Everything above is what I would refer to as an 80% skill. A quick draw, recoil control, accuracy, and quality decision making will finish 80% of handgun fights (100% of statistics are made up). These next 20% are considerably less important in a defensive context until they aren’t. Competitive shooters tend to manipulate their guns more during the course of a match because the courses of fire are designed to make them do so. This is another value add to incorporate competition into your defensive training regimen. Try to think of it as a work out rather than a game. That said the following are your manipulation standards.
Reload: Start with the handgun on target and slide locked to the rear on an empty magazine. Drop the magazine, access a full magazine, and fire one shot to the A zone in 2 seconds. Once you’ve mastered that add a round to the chamber fire one shot to slide lock and repeat the above. This should be accomplished in under 2.5 seconds. Now add the draw stroke and get the whole thing done in 3.5.
Malfunctions: Similar to the reload malfunctions require the use of a new magazine often times in order to fix them. They require some diagnostic understanding of your handgun in order to make the gun do what you need it to do when you need it to. I’ll make this simple for you. It should take a maximum of 1.5 seconds to return your handgun back to working order after it has experienced a malfunction considering you retain the magazine. I’ll give you 2.5 if you have to perform a reload during that malfunction. Aaron Cowan of Sage Dynamics has a great video out on handgun malfunctions. I’ve included it here.
It should be noted here that continuing to track your individual progress and to see improvement over time is the stated goal. No one started on this path with the innate ability to preform all of this flawlessly from the jump. There are always improvements to be made and always another challenge to present yourself with. Be a good student. Document your practice and your progress. Learn to chunk these skills into manageable bites and perfect the art of practicing. Most importantly of all continue to seek out the training and the knowledge. Do your dry fire homework. What you do in the dark will eventually show itself in the light.
Stay safe folks and as always reach out if you need anything.