Friday, August 28, 2009

Gun School: Post #4. Hardware.

Twenty-four students.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.


Anonymous said...

Tam, Thanks for the insight. Couple of questions: How many rounds did you go through per day and for the whole course? Given all your previously acquired knowledge, how do your rate this course as compared to other courses? Thanks.

Tam said...

I used around 400rds total; a lot is going to depend on how you engage targets, as the number of rounds fired on most strings is up to you (Louis would call out "Minimum of two, maximum of five!" or somesuch before an evolution.)

As for your second question, rest assured that "Post #4. Hardware." implies a "Post #5. Software." :D

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

Describe the 'shoot me' vest. You wear your belted pants, shirt, and vest year round? Even when visiting Tennessee/Georgia in late July?

Just examining all options for hot weather carry. People are starting to comment on the Man-Purse.

TD said...

The corollary to lessons 2 and 3: test all your mags; don't show up with a half dozen brand-new generic Gun Show Specials and be surprised when they don't fit in the magwell, refuse to feed, or break their welds and dump the floorplate.

Tam said...

I don't wear shorts; I'm a little self conscious about the scarring on my right leg from the motorcycle accident, so, yes, I wear belted jeans year round.

I'll usually wear the vest (I added a link) or a "boyfriend shirt" as a cover garment.

Tam said...

TD sez,

"The corollary to lessons 2 and 3: test all your mags..."

Good point! Will edit...

Weer'd Beard said...

I'd say about 70% of the time I carry in a shoulder rig (fits well with my preferred attire, as well as my hatred of belts)

Seems that most of these classes I see nix (and for obvious reasons) cross draw from the firing line.

Is there any hope for me?

Tam said...

"Seems that most of these classes I see nix (and for obvious reasons) cross draw from the firing line."

Louis put the purse and fanny-pack users on the far ends of the line.

Tango Juliet said...

1) Agreed.
2) Check. Two is one. One is none.
3) Check. Test the EXACT same ammo in the same mags that you'll be bringing to the class.
4) Double check.

You pass.

Next week, a rundown of the drills you found beneficial, right?

pdb said...

Big thumbs up to Awerbuck for finding a way to work around the alternate carry folks. Not everybody can wear a duty belt and a strong side holster all day.

The smug you feel when you roll up to, then depart a class / match wearing the same gear you intend to use in the event is the best kind of smug.

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

I'd sweat like a Democrat in church if I wore that much most places I can carry, in the summer. And I don't think if I wore a "boyfriend shirt" it would help my bonifides improve by then being able to drop the Man-Purse.

One place I can never carry is work, which is a shame, since they keep the AC set at 'Meat Locker' in the summer, and don't know what Central Heat is.

Curse you Al Gore, for causing hot summers and limiting my CCW options!

The Duck said...

Great advice,
I've recommended to a lot of people the NRA PPITH or PPOTH or both are good primers to get ready for the higher end classes.
When I attended LF-1 my primary BHP went down, but I had packed two HP's as back up (turned out to be a worn extractor)
With the cost of the course, travel motel, etc it can easy hit over 4 figures for a 3 day course, so it only make sense to pack back up, even when you know your primary equipment, & making the back up the same gun makes the packing easier. Mags/holster all interchange, again great advice for those that haven't been.

The Duck said...

PS I agree train the way you carry, & bring as many mags as possible, & just reload your fighting ammo when you leave the range, slip the vest on & go

Caleb said...

You know, if the balloon ever did go up, I'd actually like to have an open gun with a 30 round mag and a speed rig with another 4 or 5 30 round mags. I mean, if I know I'm going to a gunfight, I want the gun that I can hit fastest and most often with.

But since I can't realistically CCW an STI Steelmaster...

Turk Turon said...

Great report. Thank you.

"Boyfriend shirt" - first time I've encountered that term. I use a Hawaiian shirt over a white tee.

Lots of good advice!

buzz_knox said...


Did anyone ask Louis the Question (i.e. about Pat saving his life)? That's a ritual that I hope doesn't end just because Louis talked about it in the latest SWAT.

Anonymous said...

Turk, that's because you are a dude. Common term in women's fashion.

I had never seen so many brand new shooters before. Granted my last class was at Shootrite with Clint Smith and everyone there was a seasoned veteran. I am not sure whether this class had so many new people because of the Obama Effect or just the Wheel of the Universe ordained this fact.

On one hand it was good to see new people, on the other hand one had eye strain keeping both eyes in different directions. That's why it was so cool (well, one reason) in having Tam along. I did not have to worry about her (other than pestering her to drink water). It is amazing to what she can pick just by osmosis (but I really don't have to tell anyone here that).

Only thing I can add (and some of it is redundant) to hardware is: find a pistol you like, buy multiple copies. Find a backup gun and buy multiple copies. Buy a good holster AND belt that you would carry on the street and wear it in class (I consider the holster and belt an essential platform and part of the pistol).

I'm on pins and needles about software. If you don't tell them how awesome you were on the mover, I will!

Shootin' Buddy

zeeke42 said...

You didn't wear your shoot-me vest during the class? It seems practicing with your street gear should extend to drawing from concealment.

Tam said...

"You didn't wear your shoot-me vest during the class? It seems practicing with your street gear should extend to drawing from concealment."

I practice drawing from concealment at home (one of the reasons I have a blue gun).

Given the 90 degree heat and high humidity, I figured I'd absorb more instruction if I didn't become a heat casualty... ;)

zeeke42 said...

Fair enough. Heat can be rough. I remember when I took ECQC last year, the class planned to meet up for dinner on the evening of the second day. I went home to shower and head back out, and I lay down for 'a few minutes' and woke up 3 hours later, having missed dinner.

Tam said...

Yeah, my Blackwater ball cap started the weekend nice and crisp and black, and three days later was charcoal-colored where it wasn't sweat-stained. Bambi could probably use it for a salt lick now. :o

Warthog said...

Still, it sounds like you had a great time and learned a lot. I hope you'll share for those of us who can't afford the class and can't find the ammo anyway.

Chad said...

Heh, my CCW instructor liked to point out that Hawaiian shirts were dead giveaways for people likely carrying.

Now, not saying that the badguys will shoot people in line at the bank wearing flowery shirts...

NotClauswitz said...

Ok that's it, I'll have to buy some more magazines for the P220 and take one of Louis' classes out here.
It might be interesting to report from a region where as far as I know almost nobody (except cops) carries CCW, so there's no "usual street gear" or "daily carry" stuff - or I might be happily surprised.
I never see anybody around here wearing a photog vest either, not one who isn't also lugging a big piece of TV equipment.

Unknownsailor said...

For my multiple forays to Gunsite I used a simple kydex belt holster and 2 mag pouches. I typically am wearing BDU pants, though, so I throw extra loose rounds and some spare loaded mags in a thigh pocket, for back filling mag pouches and thumbing full partially loaded mags while listening to instructors give instruction.
My daily carry is IWB at the same spot on the belt I put my kydex holster.
For gear, part of the reason I recommend sleep in schools to everyone I know is so they have a chance to wring out their gear in a low risk but high stress environment, so they can see what works and what chokes.
There is a lot of junk out there, and better to find out what works before you have to use it to defend yourself.

Anonymous said...

I've become a big fan of the loose Hawaiian shirt as a cover garment since I started carrying regularly. Seems to be working pretty well so far, I don't think any of my friends have figured out I'm carrying yet (other than my roommates). Of course that could be because the idea simply would not occur to folks here in Massachusetts.

Crucis said...

I usually carry a J-frame in a pocket holster or a pistol in an IWB under a untucked shirt.

Two questions. Were any wheelguns used? And, 2nd, how well did the M&P compacts hold up?

Gregg said...

The only caveat I have to #3 is, clean the mags that you are planning to use! The weekend before, instead of going to the fun show to pick up more mags, take the time to meticulously go over every piece of gear, including your magazines.

I live in Phoenix AZ and typically wear belted jeans and quite often a t-shirt with a cover shirt. Yes, it gets a bit warm, but seriously it's already 110 frickin degrees, stripping nekkid won't cool you off appreciably and then all your tender bits are exposed to that big burning ball of fire.

Anonymous said...

I was at a John Farnam course the same weekend you were with Awerbuck. You had a more interesting variety of guns then we did.

The vast majority of our class ran striker fired autos. Mainly Glocks and M&P's, with a coule XD's as well. Only one "real student" had a 1911, which she borrowed, but a couple of the instructors auditing the course ran 1911's at various times.

I was the odd man out both days. On Saturday I was the only student running a DA/SA gun. I had my Sig 239 9mm in my Galco Summer Comfort carry holster. On Sunday I switched to my CZ-75 in a Blade Tech OWB mainly because I got frustrated with getting my clothes caught in the IWB holster. It was reaching the point where it was a bit of a safety issue as well.

I was the only student with a CZ.

One student (my training partner) had a Para LDA with multiple functiong problems. It was finally pulled off the line after the firing pin got stuck forward. He switched to a Sig 226 in DA/SA for the second day and struggled with the DA/SA transition just as I had the first day.

I'm writing on article for SWAT so stay tuned for more info in a few months when it runs.

Farnam spoke highly of Awerbuck, btw, when I mentioned wanting to take a shotgun class with him.

Rob (Trebor)

cj said...

Shoot, take the class with what you carry? And yet no pocket pistols in the bunch! Closest seems to have been the Bersa and PPS.

Would have been interesting to see someone with a little J-Frame or Ruger LCP or something going through 400 rounds.

Tam said...


I shot with what I carry: A full-size steel Government Model.

You should shoot with what you carry, too.

(The pistol and holster I used in the class is the same one that's been on my hip since 0658hrs this morning. I imagine I will remove it when I go to bed 'round midnight.)

Anonymous said...

I took the class with what I carry, my 2d and 3d guns are a Kahr P9 and a SW638, but Louis did not get to bugs in this class.

Shootin' Buddy

NotClauswitz said...

Looking forward to Trebor's article, Tam inspired me to become a subscriber. I ordered three more Sig mags from Midway (on sale).

cj said...

Sorry, wasn't trying to accuse YOU of not doing so, just observing the list of other choices for the course (which I really appreciate seeing by the way). To read some discussions on the topic, it seems like a large percentage carry J-frames or other pocket pistols, yet no one in the class was using one.

I'm also shuddering at the thought of running 400 rounds in 2 days through my LCP...assuming I could even FIND enough to run through it lately!

Caleb said...

Someday I'll go to gunskool with my Jetfire and do the whole weekend from a pocket holster.

Stretch said...

What's your opinion on mixing 7 and 8 round magazines? I have some of both.

Anonymous said...

Having been to several of Lou's classes I can echo that he's one of the greatest instructors on the planet. And if you've never heard him tell the story of "Death Under The Desert Sun" in person, you haven't lived (I thought I'd pee myself)and he left out a couple of things in SWAT.

Will said...

I would suggest wearing a dark t-shirt instead of the white ones under those Hawaiian shirts. Under some lighting conditions, a gun may be visible through the material. A black or other dark undershirt will keep it from being hi-lighted. Not all clothing material is light-proof, some would be termed opaque.

geekWithA.45 said...

FYI, mags for the Walther PPS are somewhat hard to find. I had mine on order for *months* through S&W, until I found them in stock at MidwayUSA. Apparently, there's some hitch in the supply chain which goes all the way back to Germany.

I'm guessing that guy was making do with the gun he had.

randy said...

Being a BHP fan (.40S&W BHP is my current carry piece) myself, I'm curious on how the BHP performed in the class.

WV: "gaton", As much as possible I try to never leave my house without a gaton.