Modern Samurai Project 2-Day Red Dot “Day 2” AAR (Poly80 Edition)

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I am going to start this blog post off with a rather obvious, but still important statement:

“Factory pistols with red dots or red dot cuts on the slide may be the hotness, but they are not new.”

I say that because, well, it’s true. The first one I’m aware of, the FN FNX-45, was released in 2012, and it still took another three years for Chuck Pressburg (nee “Roland”) on Primary and Secondary to popularize the concept enough to start gaining mass market appeal (with an after-market milled slide by ATEi, ironically).

I say this because the training situation for them has really lagged. Until about 2017, when Modern Samurai Project started offering classes, I’m not even sure there was a class for red dot pistols outside of Gabe Suarez’s (no comment there). Yes, you had USPSA GM-level shooters doing training on Open guns – but those are a somewhat different beast than the Carry Optics pistols we’re talking about, both in terms of the gun itself and the way it’s carried rig-wise. I was fortunate enough to take the second day of MSP’s “2-Day Red Dot” on Sunday, and I want to share my (really great!) experiences. More after the break.

This AAR is a little different than the others because I wasn’t there on the first day of class (since it was a Saturday, and I don’t roll on Shabbos). Thus, there is a whole 8 hours of instruction that happened that I didn’t get, and I am sure could have helped me during the 8 hours I was there. Take whatever you read with that caveat in mind.

So that you can get an idea of what I saw – and what I missed – I’m going to post the class syllabus from their website:

  • Zeroing your red dot. 10 yard zero. 25 yard confirmation. Ammo selection.
  • Draw and how to stop fishing for the dot. Why back up irons are necessary?
  • Only use the necessary amount of information required to make an acceptably accurate shot at the speed and distance required.
  • Red dots up close. 5 yards and in. 
  • Red dots at distance
  • Speed: Efficiency of draw and presentation. Concealed and Open setups. Speed is the economy of motion. Speed is not useless frenetic movement. Micro Drill training method.
  • Dot tracking: Grip, stance, dot movement, predictability. Stop over confirming the dot!
  • Modes of Practice: Speed mode. Accuracy Mode. Match/For Realz Mode.
  • How to get better on your own. Dry fire for skill building. Live fire for confirmation.
  • Target transitions
  • Shooting on the move
  • Why you should compete
  • Mini match to test skills

I have bolded the stuff that I think was covered in day 2. As you can see, I totally missed everything about zeroing and drawing. Now, the good news was that I had been dry-fire practicing that stuff at home – exclusively on a CO rig the week before class – so I was not TOO far behind when I got there, and I think I can make a fair assessment of what we did cover.

The class was held in Berryville, VA, on a private farm property. My understanding is that the owner also owns ISM Weapon Systems in Purcellville, VA. The range was rather austere and the berm could have been longer/taller, but it suited the purposes of the class just fine. There were lots of cute farm animals who quietly observed the proceedings from their nearby pens. It was VERY muddy due to the weather conditions the day prior. My duty boots were filthy by the end, and people running around in sneakers sometimes had some real issues with slipping. It was cold when we started, but was in the mid-60’s by the end of the day. Clothing and footwear considerations are a real thing for classes!

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The class is taught by Scott “Jedi” Jedlinski, who has a short bio at the MSP website. Scott is a long-time martial artist (especially BJJ, it seems) who got into shooting, took a lot of training (both mil/LE-oriented and competition-oriented), and became an M-class USPSA shooter. He has no actual LE or military background (I want to say he’s a mortgage broker?), but I personally find that very easy to identify with, because I also have no LE or military background. He does borrow from his martial arts training quite liberally, and to great effect.

If you have ever listened to Scott on a Primary and Secondary modcast, you basically know what he sounds like in class. He is funny, engaging, insightful and unafraid to call out mistakes. What you probably don’t get out of the modcast is how big and fast he is.

The assistant instructor was Jose Gordon. Yes, that Jose Gordon from Primary and Secondary. While not quite as tall as Jedi, he was similarly friendly and engaging, and brought his military expertise from his service as an Army Ranger to class, which nicely filled in any knowledge gaps Jedi might have had (not that any were evident). When Jose did a little demo’ing, he delivered the goods quite nicely.

My gear for the class was an RHT OWB competition holster, my trusty Blade-Tech magazine pouches, and an Uncle Mike’s belt. The guns were a pair of Poly80 builds – a PF940 (17-length) with a Fastfire 3 8 MOA and a Streamlight TLR-1, and a PF940C (19-length) with a TBRCi comp, RMR01 3MOA, and a Streamlight TLR-2. Round count was given as 500 (1000 for both days) – I think it was closer to 350-400. I was using Winchester 124gr 9mm NATO exclusively to minimize ammunition-related issues.

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Class started at 9AM. Instructions were to meet at the range, but since I had no idea where that was, I met my Green Ops friends Ace and Mike at a local gas station to guide me in. It really is not that hard to reach (especially compared to the FPF range, which is rather off-road), but there was an unmarked gravel road you needed to know about.

I got a quick private range brief (which amounted to “don’t be unsafe or stupid”, like most other range briefs), and we got shooting. I started off with my PF940. It had some short-stroke failures to eject, I think because it was cold and I had not lubed it as well as I should. Cold weather is a real thing!

The seventeen students in the class were really switched on – this was probably the most experienced group I had ever shot with. No novices here. Gear was all over the place – OWB, AIWB, different pistols, etc. No hard red dot failures, but did see an issue or two with them accidentally being switched off.

The class was structured into two relays, albeit we often set up in one or two lines for certain drills. Scott demoed EVERYTHING, and he was unafraid of doing it at full speed. That’s a really important thing – a lot of people are not used to seeing high-level shooters at work, and aren’t even aware that certain levels of performance are possible in real life on demand (vs 50th take on YouTube or Instagram).

The first couple drills of the day were accuracy drills at about 7 yards. I will freely admit that I am not super-interested in raw accuracy over speed, because I’m competition-focused. I didn’t do too badly – probably would have done better if I slowed it down a little more, but it was enough to confirm I had an OK zero.

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Since it was morning and we were facing due east, the sun was a bit in our eyes and glinting off our optics. This was interesting because it induced a couple shooters to target the reflections of their red dots, causing them to aim way too low. This seemed to be more of a problem with the larger window Romeo1 and Delta Point Pros; people with RMRs and my Fastfire III didn’t experience this issue. Gear matters.

The pace started picking up as we swapped to USPSA targets and worked towards bill drills. 2 shots, 4 shots, and then 6 shots. I think my final time was around 3 seconds, which I have been faster with – not sure if it was the cold or my malfunctions or if it was just the red dot. I really did like how the class was structured to force you to never get too comfortable just going fast or just being accurate – you had to keep doing both.

Another thing I really liked is that Scott kept things moving. It wasn’t rushed, but he cycled relays quickly and efficiently. You had just enough downtime  His advice was direct and on-point to every shooter, and often challenged you to tell him why you weren’t doing as well as you could be. And, really, you did know when you rushed a shot, had a sloppy trigger pull, didn’t see the dot, etc.

We broke for lunch, and I swapped to my PF940C “Fauxland Special”. With the exception of a single stovepipe failure, this pistol was 100% for the rest of the class. I also dumped my coat, because the temperatures were getting unseasonably warm.

The next drills were at 25yds, against steel. The fun thing about shooting at distance is that people get slow with their draws because they’ve got to slow down on getting a more stable sight picture, so after doing some drills, Scott organized a king-of-the-hill-style shoot-off to promote drawing and shooting quickly. If you’re zeroed at 10yds and shooting at 25yds, you don’t need a holdover, so it’s really just pointing and shooting against smaller targets… distance can sometimes more in your head than anything else.

Shockingly, I won this event (I assume because Mike got knocked out by an unlucky miss – ammo matters!). Scott gave me some flack for running gamer gear, but WTF else was I going to bring? I live in MD, I don’t have a concealed carry rig because I can’t concealed carry. I will admit going later helped, but you can look at the videos and make the determination if that was the deciding factor… or if it was the daily dry-fire on 1/3 USPSA targets and poppers. Either way, competition is always good fun for everyone involved.

Moving closer in, we did some forward movement drills shooting into steel. We did both bent legs and standing-tall movement methods. I’m definitely a bent legs guy. Seeing the military guys do it was pretty interesting – they were much more aggressive than the civilians, I guess because of training. While it sounds kinda basic, this is the kind of stuff I love at classes, because you just can’t do it at a static range, and dry-fire only gets you so far on movement.

After our movement work, it was back to the relay line for some strong-hand and support-hand work. Scott presented a few different thumb positions to aid in this – I found stretched thumb worked best for me. I practice one-handed shooting regularly, so I didn’t find it to be much of a challenge unto itself. A surprising find was that the comp on my gun made a serious difference in recoil recovery in one-handed shooting, maybe moreso than freestyle. One thing I would recommend in future classes is doing this from the draw – getting your index one-handed from the draw is really quite challenging and worth experimenting with.

At this point, it was time for the “mini match”. This was basically a single 12rd USPSA stage that tested the skills from the class. I went first, and did a very conservative (and slow) stage plan. I didn’t do horribly, but could have been faster. After we all took turns, Scott showed us how he would run it, and let us take another turn at it – no target scoring, just raw time. Unsurprisingly, everyone, including myself, ran it a lot faster. The third time around, we did it with scoring. I did reasonably well that time, too, but could have been better. Even though I didn’t dominate the scores, it was arguably the most valuable part of the class for me, because it directly impacts how I plan to shoot USPSA and IDPA stages, and my willingness to shoot carry optics while doing it.

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It was like a Primary and Secondary reunion at this class.

The class ended with tear-down, brass policing, and a hot wash meeting. There’s a good deal of post-class socializing, and the people taking the class were worth meeting.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that this was one of the best, most formative classes I’ve ever taken as a shooter, even though I was only there for half of it. There’s a lot in it that had application for shooting ANYTHING at speed, and the focus on body mechanics is a lot different than I’ve seen in other classes. I feel like a lot of mil/LE instructors tend to focus on fixing you and your technique, rather than trying to fix your technique to work with you. I’m not saying the former is bad, but it was fascinating to see more of the latter and how well it works (this is kind of a key component of how the Greg Ellifritz class worked, now that I think of it).

So, perhaps unsurprisingly, Jedi and the class absolutely live up to the hype. If MSP offers this course near you, clear off your calendar and get there – it’s worth every penny and then some.

As for my gear, I know a lot of people have some skepticism of the Poly80 frames, but if you do them right, they run really well. I love how high you can hold them compared to a stock Glock frame. Definitely a recommended experiment for anyone who can buy one in an 80%-friendly state.

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