2018 in Review, and Plans for 2019

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I was reading the Civilian Gunfighter blog recently – it’s fantastic – and they had a really great series of posts up on there looking back at 2018 and discussing their plans for 2019. Unlike them, I don’t have a lot of really cool stuff to talk about or have much wisdom to share, but I think it might be informative – and hopefully inspirational – for people to understand what happened with me starting in April.

For a long time, I had not been in great shape health-wise. After some surgery in 2017, I finally started fixing that over the next year. I’m not in amazing shape, but things are tremendously better from where they were at the start of 2017. In late 2017, I had also started a new job in the northern VA area.

Once upon a time, I took a carbine class that was offered by a MARSOC instructor. I had a great time, and I learned a lot. But that was it. I had been a gun owner for like a decade, with maybe 12 hours of training the entire time – a circa-2008 “new gun owner” course and that 2012 carbine course. A lot of static slow-fire range time, sure, but not a lot of training. I decided that maybe it was time to fix that.

I don’t roll on Shabbos, so two day courses were out for me. I also had no interest in generic new shooter and CC license classes. When I was complaining about the lack of interesting Sunday training courses in Maryland, someone on MDShooters – I think it was one of the guys on the CGF blog – pointed me towards Green Ops and FPF Training. Frankly, almost everything looked overwhelming to me, but the Green Ops holster draw class looked interesting, and that was something I had never learned to do. I signed up.

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This is now a key data point for you, readers: prior to April 2018, I had never drawn a loaded handgun from a holster in my entire life.

I was very nervous walking into that class. I had bought a Blade-Tech G17 holster and double mag carrier the week before. Here’s a snippet of a write-up I did on my experience:

Here is what I quickly learned during this part of the class: drawing from a holster right is way harder than you’d expect. I wasn’t going high enough on step 2, my grip formation at step 3 sucked, etc. I got much better at it by the end of the class, but my form was sloppy and I knew it. There is a lot to get right, and you are learning by doing in a live-fire environment. I am not sure I can think of a better way to do it in a class of 12 people, but they did try their best to work with individuals to help them correct their mistakes. It helps to have some static range expertise with the fundamentals, but that’s not going to be enough to get you on target consistently from a holster.

This was also my first time carrying a loaded pistol, so you can imagine that nerves and stress were also contributing to the general atmosphere. Probably a good thing, but for a class where I didn’t sweat, my heart was pounding pretty good.

They made good use of video to show you just how bad you suck, but watching the other guys screw up just the way you do was just as valuable. 1) It showed you what you were doing wrong and 2) gave you a bit of a morale boost – you’re all learning together!

*snip*

By the end of the night, I would say that in Green Ops terms, I was “consciously incompetent nearing competence”. I still suck at holster draws, but at least I know how they’re supposed to get done and how I can get better by practicing. I would definitely recommend the class and the organization to anyone interested in the subject matter, and I look forward to going to more Green Ops classes in the future

It was weird to look at this for the first time in six months, because I don’t even recognize the person that wrote that anymore. That was only seven months ago! The write-up seems oddly unenthusiastic now that I’m reading it again, but the class made a huge impact on me as a shooter.

I went home, dry-fired semi-regularly, and otherwise tried to suck less. I signed up for the low-light clinic – it was a little beyond my capabilities, but again, it was a great class.

The next month came around, and I was like… I have the money, why not? Another class. Before I knew it, I was an honest-to-G-d training junkie. At this point, I should note that my wife deserves a lot of credit, because she supported me going to the classes, watched the kids while I was at them, and otherwise freed up time for me to do this stuff.

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The Green Ops tenants of success or whatever they’re calling them are something I quote in nearly every AAR I’ve written about their classes, and regardless of whether you want to call me a fanboy shill for them, THEY WORK. Let’s look at that list again:

  1. Training
  2. Dry-fire using a par timer
  3. Competition
  4. Live fire
  5. Video of yourself doing 1-4

Training? I did a class nearly every month past April of 2018. I repeated a few. No regrets. Money well spent.

Dry-fire with a par timer? Two out of three days a week. There are some times when I go without the timer to work my technique, and real life sometimes gets in the way, but I really tried to make a habit of it. I use the Dry Fire Par Timer app on Android, and loaded it up with the Ben Stoeger book drills, his drills on the Brian Enos site, and the IDPA 5×5 classifier. The targets are 1/3 scale USPSA targets I bought off Ben’s website.

Dry-fire is boring, but it’s where the improvement happens. I went from a 1.8 second dry-fire draw to a 1-second draw. My reloads sped up tremendously, and my transitions improved quite a bit, too. I can do a 5.5 second dry-fire El Prez and a 2.5 second Bill Drill. I didn’t start out with those times, and I don’t intend to end with them, either.

Live fire? Probably about the same I did before, but with much more purpose. I’m practicing recoil control and transitions very specifically now.

Competition and video? Funny you should ask about that…

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One of the things that Mike Green asks at class, during the classroom portion of things, is who shoots competition? And the second time he asked that, I thought to myself “why don’t I try that? I can’t do cool stuff like in class in a single lane at the range.” I went online, figured out where the local IDPA and USPSA matches were, and signed up for an IDPA match in July. Smash-cut to today, and I’ve done ten IDPA and USPSA matches, and fully enmeshed in the sport. Even bought a Glock 34 for it!

Competition gives you drive, and there is no substitute for properly harnessed drive.

Every match, I try to get video of me on at least one stage so that 1) I can post it on Facebook and look awesome and 2) review it and see what I’m doing wrong. Spoiler alert, I always spot something that’s wrong. No, that’s not as good as dry-fire video analysis, but I don’t have a convenient solution for that.

Here’s a list of classes I took:

  • April: Green Ops 4-Count Pistol Draw Clinic
  • May: Green Ops Low Light Pistol Clinic
  • June: Green Ops Defensive Carbine I Clinic
  • July: Green Ops Concealed Carry Draw Techniques Clinic
  • August: Green Ops Practical Pistol/Competition Skills Clinic
  • September: Green Ops Defensive Carbine I Clinic
  • October: Green Ops Defensive Pistol I Clinic
  • November: FPF Training Home Defense Shotgun
  • December: Green Ops Defensive Pistol I Clinic

I enjoyed and learned in all of them. I won’t lie – repeating the justification of force classroom portion in some of the Green Ops classes over and over was not riveting. Maybe it’s lack of personal urgency due to the state of Maryland unconstitutionally disarming me in public. But the range time was always top notch, and in every class – including Tim Chandler’s class – you got a lot of good quality individual attention from the instructors.

Did it cost money? Yeah, it did. Tuition and ammo aren’t free, and you need the right gear to run, too, which you’re always tweaking between classes. Time isn’t free, either. There were a lot of Sunday and Tuesday (match) nights where I came home after my kids were asleep. I spent a lot of hours prepping gear and guns for a class that was happening later in the day. I never missed anything important with my family, but it was sacrifice.

But was it money well spent? Definitely. Even if you spend like $300 a month on classes, that’s the cost of a couple nice rifles, and I see dudes who buy tons of those every year without investing a penny in themselves. That was me, sad to say, but hopefully not anymore.

And, I think this is worth saying: I’ve also made friends – including one very good one (hi, Ace!) – and expanded my own social circle. Maybe that’s not the primary goal, but it’s sure as hell an amazing outcome. I have no particular desire for fame, notoriety, working in the gun industry, or any of that, but I enjoy being part of another community that is seriously devoted to its craft.

Mike malfunction clearance

Now, the downside to that is that once you’ve gotten competent(-ish sorta) and joined a community full of competent shooters, you realize how stupid people on the Internet are. I go on forums now, and it’s like… what kind of nonsense is being peddled in front of me? I spend a lot more time trying to not tell people how dumb they are these days, and I’m not even that good at all this.

Enough of 2018 – it’s over. What about 2019? I’ve got goals.

First, I want to branch out with my training more, and try to hit more advanced local classes at a once-per-month pace. FPF Training has a bunch of classes I want to take, and I’m hoping to get a little training in long-range precision rifle over at PNTC. I’m already signed up for a Modern Samurai Project class. But I am also still really excited to do the Green Ops classes, especially low light and the defensive pistol II clinic. If my funding was limitless and my familial obligations were nil, I’d hit every class I could.

Second, I want to hit B-class in USPSA, and EX in IDPA. If I can do better, that would be great, but those are the initial target. USPSA will probably be harder simply due to needing to get in the classifiers – the IDPA crew where I shoot seems to run a 5×5 classifier if you ask nicely beforehand.

Third, I want to do a 3 gun match. I think it’s going to be a new skill set, and I need something to start pushing me to improve my rifle and shotgun skills.

Fourth, I want to improve the quality of my live-fire and dry-fire practice. I finally bought a proper shot timer this year, and I am looking forward to pushing myself quantitatively on the range. I’m also hoping to pick up a SIRT pistol (laser taped up) and maybe a MantisX to work things harder at home. There’s a lot of prep work to getting my dry-fire set up because I’m pulling my gun from the safe, getting the belt set up, putting everything away properly, etc. With a SIRT, I can just leave it set up and dry-fire when convenient.

Finally, I want to keep the blog relevant and useful. I want to talk about what I’ve done that works, what I’ve done that didn’t work, and what I did to fix it. I’m not a top-level shooter or tier-1 military guy, but at least having gone out and done something gives me some insight that might help others.

2018 was life-changing, and I’m hoping 2019 is just as great! See you at the range!

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