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AAR of Saving Your Life with a Pistol---What matters, what doesn't.

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This is a review originally posted on Glocktalk by one of the students in the Feb 4-5 Saving Your Life with a Pistol---What matters, what doesn't. 


Hi to all my GT buds:

This is a comprehensive review of a recent training class I attended---so, if you don't have 5 minutes to spare please feel free to surf another post instead.

This past weekend, I was fortunate to be able to attend a 2 day class in Tennessee, entitled; Saving Your Life with a Pistol---What matters, what doesn't. Instructed by Randy Harris, of Harris Combative Strategies and John Hearne, of Two Pillars Training.

The class consisted of 9 participants, of which I was the eldest actual class member ( the range owner beat me by 5 years, but he was attending in conjunction with his ownership of the range)

The class included ex-military, active and retired LE and also included several current and former firearms instructors. The skill-level was intermediate-to-advanced.

Before I dive in, I want to preface the review with a little background:

As many of you are probably aware, I am retired LE, with years as a member of my agency's firearm training section. In addition, after retirement to NM, I operated a very successful CHL training school from 2005 to 2015, This was during the surge in shall-issue permits in NM where a minimum of 15 hrs of combined classroom and range training is required and where the license is caliber and platform type specific---revolver shooters can't carry self-loaders and vice versa unless qualified with both.

Since leaving NM and settling in GA, I try to maintain my age-diminishing skill-set by attending training classes--[ like the one being reviewed ] as often as they are offered within a few hours drive of my location.

Mr Harris and Mr Hearne, are both highly skilled shooters and experienced instructors, each having trained with and by the great instructors of the present and past generation, to include the “Colonel” among many others. Their instructing “style” is not to denigrate or belittle performance, as some top-tier instructors often do, but to actually help the student self-diagnose problems, offering practical solutions for correction.

In addition to their extensive skill-sets, each is a professional. I must define what this term means to me; Professionalism in my experience, is demonstrated by showing up and working when you are suffering from an Upper Respiratory Infection, like Mr Harris was---it is dressing out for extended range sessions in 19 to 30 degree weather, like it was the entire weekend, and finally, professionalism is demonstrated by not skimping on the training because of these limiting factors.

Now, as to the course content: I have been blessed throughout my 50 yr shooting career; having been taught and mentored by extremely patient and knowledgeable instructors; ranging from my early agency peers to the great instructors during my IALEFI years, and finally with advanced classes taught by messirs Harris and Hearne.

Eight hours of this class was devoted to the classroom for the sole purpose of understanding; Who Wins, Who Loses, and Why

Instructors such as myself, have long repeated the sage advice of the “Colonel”, the witticisms of Clint Smith, Tom Givens, Massad Ayoob, and other highly skilled instructors, while never knowing the origins and actual science behind the core tenets of the handgun instruction we received.. This class, taught by a Masters educated historian and trainer explained how we are wired as humans, why we react the way we do in extremis, as well as presenting practical methods for learning essential gun-fight survival skills.

The content was personally satisfying to me, as it affirmed the beliefs and dictums I have passed on to my CHL students, while divulging the “Science” behind those beliefs to back them up. This portion of the class was very extensive---debunking statements and beliefs widely held by myself and other trainers...such as; the belief that the victims of the Newhall massacre had empty 38 casings in their trouser pockets...just one of many examples where actual research and science has revealed the “True” story of events many believed otherwise.

The range portion of the class was predictable; There is only so much you can do on a traditional square range....and, the field of handgun training has expanded about as much as the science allows---The core disciplines have been developed and are widely taught---this is a finite discipline---there really are not any new dynamic discoveries being made....[We] know what works---we know what core skills a handgun shooter must develop in order to manipulate the platform correctly and efficiently...we know the value of dry-fire practice, confirmed by purposeful live-fire. We know that being able to draw to a center-mass hit from concealment in less than 2 seconds, is vital to prevailing in an armed encounter...We know the value of force-on-force training. These facts are universally known, or “should” be known by any serious student of the discipline, and certainly by Any person.who carries a handgun daily for personal protection. So, there were few surprises for us on the range.

That being said, I believe Any professionally directed handgun practice is valid for anchoring a skill-set or reinforcing existing skills. And something we ALL learned, is just how uncomfortable and difficult it is to smoothly manipulate your handgun in 19 degree temperatures---how 3 layers of clothing can snag and or slow your draw.---how frozen fingers can easily fumble a reload...how difficult it can be to manipulate your platform while also holding a flashlight...but, Bad Actors operate in all kinds of weather, and to survive,we must be able also.

Several hours of the program were conducted in near-total darkness...while we practiced the various methods for operating our handguns with both weapon mounted and mostly hand-held flashlights.

Spoiler alert...firing with a flashlight in your hand is one thing...performing a tactical magazine exchange, with frozen fingers AND a flashlight in your hand is a different matter entirely. Fortunately, the stats are on our side, in that very rarely will an armed citizen need to reload their platform...the reality being that you will live or die with what is in the handgun at the time hostilities commence, whether it be 5 rounds in your trusty J-frame or 17 rounds in your wonder-nine.

In conclusion; I thoroughly enjoyed the class, and there was very little down-time---we were either actively engaged in vigorous classroom discussions/debates or on the firing line...and in the final analysis...that's exactly what we paid our monies to do...

I hope to meet some of my GT buds at another class, contact the instructors at their web sites;

Harriscombative.com or Jhearne.com and remember “Firearm safety is Everyone's responsibility”

LT. Donn 

Edited by Cruel Hand Luke
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I hesitate to comment as LT Dann is quite the wordsmith.

Full disclosure: I began training with Randy in 2012, weaseled my way into his good graces and served as his Range Valet. After thanking students for investing in themselves, I did the same. I passed both the basic and advanced Range Master instructor courses to attain the position of assistant instructor for Harris Combative Strategies.

However, this is the first time I've met John Hearne; he is an excellent speaker in the classroom and positive coaching influence on the range.

The classroom content was broken down over 2 days into 4 hour blocks. John discusses how the brain makes decisions and why it does so.

He then takes a deeper dive into best practices you can employ to improve decision making under stress and  remaining in a rational state of mind until the event is over.

Pretty cool stuff, John turns a presentation into a conversation, which keeps the audience engaged.

One point he highlights is adding novelty to your training to remove novelty when it happens for the first time.

The course of fire accompanying the lecture was pistol fighting in low light environments;  LT  Dann describes conditions impacting adversely manipulations.

Randy often asks students, "do you want the novelty of 'well, this sucks' to happen in here in class or for the first time in a fight?" 

John explains (effectively with a few graphs) what the decision making process looks like. Best way I can describe is he shows all complexities than impact / influence Boyd's OODA Process. There is a lot going on.

My takeaway: if I'm making these decisions / taking these actions for the first time or worse, on the fly, my best chance is my attacker is more inept than my level of training or awareness. (Can't remember who originally used the concept of 'ineptness of the attacker' as a method of survivability) 

I hope to either train as a student with John or assist at another Harris - Hearne Event.

HCS does have a 2 day red dot pistol class 4/30 and 5/1 at Windrock Shooting and Training, Oliver Springs

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