Tuesday, November 1, 2011

AAR: Range USA Self Defense Handgun

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to take Self Defense Handgun at Range USA. This is their foundational self-defense course where they introduce instruction on the draw, reload, retention shooting, moving while shooting and some cognitive processing. The courses before this one focus solely on fundamentals and running the gun (i.e. clearing malfunctions). There is no drawing, moving, timed shooting or defensive oriented shooting in courses prior to this one. Prerequisites for this course are a concealed carry permit, or some other base level of instruction. This is not intended to be an introduction to handgunning course, participants should have a fair grasp on how to operate their chosen handgun beforehand. Although, a great degree of skill isn't required either.

The course starts with a quick but thorough safety brief in the classroom. The instructor identified the essential task in the case of an emergency and then assigned two people to each one to make sure that it would get done. I felt confident that should something go wrong, it would be handled quickly and appropriately.

Once the safety brief is done, we hit the range and started up with a quick warm up of the fundamentals. After that, everyone was put on the timer and had to draw and fire two rounds at what is essentially a TQ-21 target at 3 yards. One of the primary goals of the course is to get everyone able to get two hits on target from the holster in less than 2 seconds. Not that difficult, but for a shooter new to self-defense type shooting, a good benchmark. Most everything associated with defensive shooting is touched on in this course, but not given an extensive amount of attention. The single most skill set exercised with a lot of repetitions is probably the draw, since every drill is run from the holster. There is a little close quarters retention shooting, there is a little moving while shooting (forward, backward, left and right), reloading, malfunctions drills and some cognitive processing drills. For all the more "advanced" drills like shooting while moving and shooting from retention they are done one student at a time for safety, but it also means you are one on one with the instructor, which is nice. The most killer drill is the 1" dot drill shot at 3 yards. I scored an abysmal 18 of 25 possible. Well, I thought it was abysmal. I have since pulled off a single perfect 25 of 25 score. I usually drop one or two.

There is a lunch break in there somewhere, but honestly I don't remember where:) The on-site is restaurant is the greatest thing ever. Menus are distributed at the beginning of the course and orders are placed well before actual lunch time. So when the lunch break roles around everyone's food is already prepared and ready for eating. Makes the break run a lot smoother and allows more time for actual shooting.

The course wraps up with putting the draw back on the timer, running the same drill as at the beginning of the course to see what the improvement is. I had about a .20 second improvement. However, compared to where I am at now it was a glacial speed. I owe a lot to this course for starting the process of getting my draw back in shape. Even though it was just about a quarter second improvement in the 8hr time span from the beginning of the course to the end of the course, less than a year later I can execute the same drill in just a hair over 1 second. I bet if I really pushed, I could even get it under 1 second pretty consistently. In fact, next time I am at the range I will see just how fast I can do it now, six months after taking the course.

There was supposed to be a "combat" course of fire at the very end, but a conflict with a concealed carry permit course running at the same time prevented us being able to run through it sadly. It would have been a good way to close out the day. I think the course description calls for about 500 rounds, and I ended up actually shooting about 400, but that is close enough. At the end of the course you not only get a certificate of completion but also a report card, which is super awesome. The instruction is solid, facility top rate, and well worth the price of admission.

Hint: Sign up two people at the same time and you get a 20% discount.

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