Seven 1911's, three Springfield XD's, a Browning High Power, a CZ-75 Compact, a DAO Beretta PX-4 Storm, a Beretta 9000S, a Walther PPS, a Bersa Thunder .380, a SIG P-239, two S&W M&P Compacts, and the balance were using Glocks of one sort or another.
The student using the Bersa dropped out after the first day, and the student using the 9000S switched to her dad's backup M&P Compact on Day Two because the Beretta had been all ate up with function issues on the first day.
One of the 1911's was the duty sidearm of a cop, who ran it in his duty gear. Of the other twenty-three students, just under half were using the methods of carry they'd use on the street, while the remainder used bulkier “range/training” type holsters.
I found this to be a little odd, as Louis Awerbuck was more than willing to work with students who were using their CCW rigs: I saw him adapt the traditional “four-count” draw to students using a fanny pack, a carry purse, and appendix carry. Other than those three students, everybody else was using some variation of strong-side belt carry, whether inside or outside the waistband, on or behind the point of the hip.
The student using the Walther only brought the two mags that came with the gun. This was something of a drawback, given their low capacity, and he was sometimes caught flat-footed, needing to thumb rounds into a magazine to keep up with the pace of the drills.
The students with the Bersa and the Beretta Storm still had metaphorical price tags hanging from their guns. While this was, nominally, a Level One defensive handgun course, they probably would have gotten more out of it if they had a little more confidence in the basic manipulation of their firearms; running the slide, operating the controls, and so forth. Louis and his assistants displayed great patience, but it was frustrating enough for the Bersa-toting pupil that she dropped out after the first day. To be fair, I'm not entirely sure that attending the class was her idea.
One of the Glock toters had constant issues with Type I malfunctions, as did the Beretta 9000 on Day One. The Beretta shooter was fortunate in that her dad had brought a spare gun. The cop with the 1911 has a couple of incidences of the slide prematurely locking to the rear, which I am nearly certain could be attributed to the aftermarket “extended” slide stop on his sidearm.
Observations I took away from all this:
- Even a “Defensive Handgun I” course is not the same as “Your Gun: How To Work It”. In most locales, it is easy to find a couple-hour-long Basic Pistol course. This will help give enough familiarity with the basic operation of your weapon that you can concentrate on the “defensive” aspects of the course and not spend your time trying to remember how to load the blamed thing.
- The middle of an expensive class is not the time to find out that your gun is a lemon. Take it to the range the weekend before class and put a hundred rounds or so through it. Make certain it's thoroughly cleaned and oiled before class starts. If at all possible, have an identical backup gun just in case your primary pukes halfway into Day Two.
- Bring enough magazines. Every time you get a break, reload all of them that you can. You'll be much more likely to get your money's worth from the class if you're paying attention to the instructor and not frantically trying to top up the only two mags for your pistol. Bring good, tested magazines, not a bunch of aftermarket South Korean junk you picked up at a gun show the weekend before so you'd have lots of magazines for class. Number your magazines. If your gun starts puking on day two, it would be handy to know that all those Type I malfs are only happening with Mag #7.
- Use your street gear and gun. If your daily carry is a Glock 26 in a bellyband and you take the course with an XD in an IPSC race holster, how many of these skill drills will be directly translatable to your daily life? I took great satisfaction at the end of the day, when so many of the students were stripping off their Gunsite holsters and triple mag carriers, that all I had to do when I left the range was pull my Shoot Me vest back on.