This is an after-action review of the Green Ops Defensive Pistol I Clinic that was held on December 9 (6:00 PM – 10:30 PM) at the NRA HQ range. I think some people are going to find that odd. “But, Jew-with-a-Gun, you just took that back in October! What’s the point?”
The point is, remarkably, quite simple: if advanced shooting is just advanced application of the fundamentals, then pretty much anything you do to further master those fundamentals is going to have positive downstream effects when you’re shooting at a higher-level. The trick is having instructors who can keep pushing you on those fundamentals beyond a basic level, and the Green Ops guys are top-notch for that.
(Full disclosure: I got a small class discount for AARs I previously wrote. I didn’t ask for it, and I’d still be taking their classes without it. The amount of money in question is trivial to my situation, and thus had trivial impact on this AAR – or so I hope.)
Let me lead off with a quick run-down on Green Ops. They’re a training outfit here in the northern Virginia area that runs classes on several area ranges. The owner is Mike Green, who is retired US Army Special Forces, and more importantly, knows how to really teach running a gun. He is internet-famous from appearing on the Primary and Secondary podcast a few times. In fact, he was on a very recent episode about Special Forces that I’d encourage you to listen to, because I think it gives a fair bit of insight into why he’s such a good trainer (spoiler: training illiterate foreign conscripts is an SF mission!).
The other instructor was Brett Harnish. Brett was also in the military, and was a LEO for quite a long time. Not only is Brett a great instructor and a shooter, but he brings the LE perspective to the class, which I think gives you a real balance in application and thought. There was, somewhat surprisingly, no third instructor this time; they usually have three. I thought the class ran really well with only two instructors, but you did notice it a bit at the end when splitting into three “lines” to run transition drills. Not sure how I’d restructure that part of the class to deal with that.
Anyways, point is, these guys are qualified to teach, and they do it well.
The class was held at the NRA HQ range. It’s modern, it’s indoors, and run very professionally. I shoot there fairly regularly, so it’s a pretty comfortable spot for me now; most of the RSOs know me by sight and vica versa. I will say that one very unfortunate development lately there is that they’ve banned steel-jacketed (“magnetic”) ammo, which totally sucks given how much of that I have lying around in rifle calibers. Down-range gets cold in the winter; if you read my October AAR of this same class, you would notice I recommended going with a long-sleeve shirt, which I wore this time; huge improvement in my comfort level.
I always like to post up the official description of the class so you can see what it’s supposed to be about:
This clinic covers the defensive use of a full-sized to compact-sized pistol. You will improve your pistol handling skills with a strong emphasis on the fundamentals. This clinic covers the defensive use of a full sized to compact sized pistol. Students will improve their pistol handling skills with a strong emphasis on the fundamentals. Students will learn self-diagnostic skills to continue development of their own personal performance.
This is an intermediate class; if you’re not comfortable with manipulating your chosen pistol and drawing from a holster, this is probably not your class. There is a quick rehash of the four-count draw, but a certain level of competence is assumed.
Time for the gear discussion… the class had a lot more hammer-fired guns than I’m used to seeing – there were HKs, Rugers, and CZs running around. Nothing wrong with that, but it made safety and decocker manipulation more of a running concern. No one had a gun go down hard, but there were some magazine-related failures. The guy next to me had a lot of trouble stuffing a brand-new 12rd mag into his Sig P365, for example. I feel like a broken record when I write this, but the way I see it is that you should verify functionality of your weapon system out of class, and suitability of your weapons system in class.
My own loadout was a Glock 34 Gen 4 with minus connector and Dawson fiber-optic sights with some Magpul and Glock mags (17 and 21rds), run off a T-Rex Ragnarok holster and a Blade-Tech double mag pouch. There were a number of people in the class running full belt rigs, which made my plebe setup feel slightly pedestrian, but it worked OK for me. Ammo was literally whatever I had lying around that I felt like burning off; that’s an advantage to not running a compensator and making your gun ammo-picky.
(I discovered after class that my front sight was pretty loose, which explains maybe a little bit of why I felt like my accuracy was degrading a little more than I expected – always use loc-tite!)
The people in the class were a good mix in all respects; there were a couple women, and pretty good minority representation. I know that some readers probably think this doesn’t matter, but if we’re going to keep our 2A rights, shooting can’t just be something OFWGs do. One thing I really appreciate about Green Ops is that they teach the same method to everyone; none of this BS about how you need to teach women differently.
Skills-wise, you had a few people who could shoot pretty well, and a few who weren’t quite as solid. This is the nature of any open-enrollment class, and not a big deal as long as everyone is safe. I would say that one of the things I struggle with is how much I want to give advice to newer shooters during a class; I don’t want to get in the way of the instructors, but if someone’s shooting a Glock with stock plstic sights, it seems almost criminal to not mention that they would probably be greatly aided with some after-market sights.
The class is divided into an hour-long classroom portion, and a three-and-a-half hour range portion. The classroom bit covers:
- Range safety
- Medical brief
- Use of force justification
- How to keep improving outside of class
I would say that as many times as I’ve sat through the use of force justification part of the classroom time (which is most of it), I still try to pay some attention, because the only way you’re gonna be able to make a good shoot/no-shoot call on the fly is to have this stuff etched into your brain via repetition. One of the more interesting things about accruing actual skills and expertise – minimal as mine are compared to others – is that you start realizing that carrying is probably a good idea, because if things go sideways, you genuinely have the tools to deal with problems, even substantial ones. I’m not a cop-basher by any means, but, at this point, I’d rather rely on my own skills than someone else’s who I don’t know.
Green Ops has five tools they promote to becoming a better shooter:
- Dry-fire using a par timer
- Live fire
- Video of yourself doing 1-4
They’re all great, but let me discuss dry-firing with a par timer. Dry-firing is where I think many people kind of mess up, because they dry-fire without the par timer. You need it SO MUCH, especially when working specific skills. Just the other day, I was working on reloads (because, as class confirmed and I already knew, I could be faster) and discovered that by keeping my gun up high (as was politely reinforced in class), I was able to reload 1) more reliably and 2) more quickly. I then followed through by making a more concerted effort to start putting my shooting hand in a better position to follow through on slide-lock reloads, which also helped with speed. I was able to determine these things made me faster because I was using the timer. You cannot make this determination without one, because time gets weird when you’re in motion. I can dry-fire an El Prez in about six seconds (which is slow, I know), and that feels like almost zero time when you’re running it. But if you’re just running that timer for six seconds while not doing anything, it seems like forever.
After you’re done in the classroom, it’s time to hit the range. Everyone lines up down range in front of their bench-tables, retrieves their guns, the instructors verify they’re empty, and everyone heads up to the line for a bit dry-fire holster draw practice. Not only is this a nice way to ease into the night, it gives the instructors a bit of time to scope out who’s on the ball and who’s not. Maybe this is some paranoia on my part, but I also take a look at the people who are to my immediate right and left to make see how likely they are to accidentally flag me. (No problems in this class!)
After dry-fire, you guessed it… live-fire! All drills were conducted between 3 to 7 yards in two relays. This is sensible for the defensive pistol mindset, because those are the most likely engagement ranges for handgun use in a defensive encounter. Honestly, there’s no special secret squirrel stuff that goes on with the drills. Some stuff we did:
- Single shots from the holster.
- Double-taps from low-ready and the holster.
- Shoot, reload from slide lock, shoot. (And if you’re a cool-guy, doing a mag-change with retention.)
- Malfunction clearance
- El Prez (without the turn)
As the class progressed, you had more and more done against the timer. The timer is initially scary, but as mentioned above, I love the timer, because it tells the objective truth, good or bad.
I really liked the malfunction drills. (I’m reviewing my last AAR, and lo-and-behold, I said the same thing that time! Still true!) I’m a bad person and don’t practice malf drills at home like I should, so doing them in class is kind of an odd treat. The clearance methods practiced are really very intuitive, and far faster than always doing the unload-slidelock-reload method. Spoiler alert, you can TURN YOUR PISTOL OVER and rack it to get stuff out of the chamber area! Who knew? (Answer: Green Ops, amongst others.)
I also really went for it on the El Prez this time around. I had been practicing that drill at home regularly, and I felt like this was the time to see if this dry-fire stuff was really doing it for me in some sort of competitive sense. I read that Ben Stoeger, diplomat that he is, often tells his students “is that really all you’ve got?” when they’re just not going full throttle (in his opinion). I am totally guilty of this in matches and dry-fire; I don’t go full-throttle even when I probably should. I liked having two runs at El Prez and doing the second one as fast as I could, even if it was faster than I felt comfortable with. I think it is difficult to teach people to do that, and I don’t blame instructors with less-experienced students for not promoting that in the name of safety… but I think the Green Ops instructors were subtly pushing the people they knew could handle it in that direction, which I appreciated and tried to respond to.
Quick bit of gun talk now: that Glock 34 Gen 4 has been VERY good to me in terms of my ability to shoot accurately and quickly in comparison to my Glock 17 Gen 3, which was not my expectation when I bought the G34. I think the Dawson fiber optic sights on it are a big improvement unto themselves, and the slight increase in sight radius has helped me with longer shots at IDPA matches. I no longer have doubts about my ability to reach out and touch the A-zone of targets at farther distances, and while I’m sure some of that is my maturation as a shooter, I think some of it is having a pretty good tool to do it with. It goes almost without saying that it had zero malfunctions in class, albeit I lubed the rails before heading over.
I always pick up new stuff at these classes no matter what my current skill level is, which is the true mark of excellent instruction. My grip strength sucked coming into the class; Mike taught me a little trick that vastly improved it, shockingly so. I would not have been ready for that a few months ago, but this time, it made sense and it worked. Same thing for my reloads – my technique was just a little flawed, and a small bit of advice from Brett made a large difference.
At the end of every class, Green Ops always asks: did you have fun? Did you learn something? Did you get your money’s worth? No question in my mind: yes, yes, and yes. You meet cool people, you learn new skills and improved techniques, and they’re charging all of a hundred sixty bucks. When you consider the cost of range time and the targets, the class feels like an amazing value. I’ve taken this class twice now, and I’ll keep taking it for the foreseeable future, because I don’t feel like I’ve even come close to truly mastering the fundamentals, if that’s even possible.
Take the class. It’s great, and worth every penny (and then some, but don’t hike your prices, guys!). If you think you’re too good for this (you almost certainly aren’t), or maybe not good enough, check their 2019 training schedule for their other classes. I’ll repeat my usual wish for a “II”-level clinic on a Sunday. 🙂
The Glock 34 is a pretty rocking handgun. I’m trying to figure out how I want to say this, but while the gun isn’t going to make you more accurate, it sure will enable more accuracy in the hands of a more-skilled user. You can claim it’s the Indian and not the arrow, but a real good arrow seems to help.