As the most bizarre Presidential campaign of my relatively long life continues, I find myself longing for the elusive Ideal Candidate.
If you’ve been reading this blog for enough years, you know my ideal candidate is Condi Rice. She was a vastly better Secretary of State than Hillary Clinton. Dr. Rice is a self-made success: brilliant, indomitable in debate, respected throughout the world, embodies gravitas, and not incidentally is a strong supporter of individual Second Amendment rights.
For many, many years I wrote the “Self-Defense and the Law” column for Harris’ Combat Handguns magazine, and the occasional feature article. I wrote the “Off-Duty” column and, until now, the “First Responder” column for their Guns & Weapons for Law Enforcement. From the early 1990s ‘til a couple of years ago I also wrote their annual Complete Book of Handguns. (Yes, semanticists out there, I know that every year’s edition was completely different from the previous, but I inherited the “Complete Book” title.)
I also found it amusing that Harris’ music magazine, Revolver, was always placed in the gun magazine section instead of the music section of the racks at my local WalMart.
For nearly 40 years, the Harris gun magazines put a lot of great material out there. The changing paradigms of electronic vis-à-vis dead tree media are no secret. I’m glad that Backwoods Home is still surviving quite well. Three print gun magazines I write for, Guns and American Handgunner on the newsstands and the professional journal Shooting Industry, all seem to be flourishing despite the rise of the electronic media.
My heart goes out to the many good people in New York who worked so hard and so long, full-time, for the Harris titles. They were always professional, and I wish them luck.
One of the rare stars who’ve shot a perfect score on the legendary Rogers test is Gabe White, the only one to have done so from concealment. He used a Glock 34 9mm with an inside the waistband holster in the appendix position. He told Glock Annual, “The Test itself is a real marathon—125 possible points on moving, disappearing plates, with four freestyle draws, eight strong-hand-only draws, two freestyle reloads, one strong-hand-only reload and two support-hand-only reloads. By my count there are at least 142 chances to screw up.”
In five days, it felt like I screwed up most of those 142 possibilities at one time or another. Having been shooting for very long time, my biggest problem was wrapping my head around Rogers’ techniques and getting away from the ones I’ve used so long myself. It seemed counter-intuitive when Bill said, “Pin the trigger back after you hit your target, and keep the sights right there, and don’t move the pistol until the next target pops up.” But it works. Before I figured that out, I blew more than one target that popped up when I was scanning elsewhere and had to double back with the sweeping gun, and it had disappeared before I got there. Remember, exposure time on Rogers targets is as little as half a second.
My biggest problem was following instructions. I’d run a few stages of the test perfect, a few more pretty good, and then completely blow one. Most often, I’d shoot out of sequence. Rogers demands “near to far” for tactical reasons, and I tended to shoot the one nearest to the sights on multiple targets; even if all subsequent shots were hits, they were invalidated for score by the procedural penalty. I finally managed to do what I tell my own students: turn off the auto pilot we all seek, and go to manual override. Conscious competence instead of unconscious competence. Think about what you’re doing, if only for an instant. When I managed to do that nine demanding stages in a row, I passed the Advanced score.
In my first blog entry in this particular series, , I wrote, “If you aren’t good at taking orders, you probably won’t be good at giving them…” Good Lord, little did I know when I wrote those words that I would live the lesson at Rogers’.
There were numerous stages where we had to reload one-hand-only with either hand. Rogers teaches doing that with the pistol in a “V-block” between thighs and knees. For decades I’ve used and taught a different technique for that, and more than once found myself starting to do my own method, catching myself, and then having to switch to Bill’s. That “oops, check, back, start over” ate up enough time that I’d lose three to five of those briefly-exposed targets by the time I got the gun back up. (Bill told me later, “If you’d asked, I would have let you used your own technique, so long as it’s safe.” My fault for not asking, but I was there to ingrain his stuff, not mine, and it all reinforced a valuable lesson for me.)
A tip of the hat to Bill Rogers and his wonderful staff: Major Adam Smith, Sergeant Kyle Armstrong, and Billy Lumpkin, late of DEVGRU. They all did a wonderful job.
One more Rogers instructor deserves notice. I hadn’t seen Ronnie Dodd since he took the Advanced OfficerSurvival course from Ray Chapman and I at Chapman Academy in Columbia, Missouri thirty years ago. He went on to an honorable retirement, during which he taught armed concealed carriers in Tennessee how to stay alive on their own. Ronnie was visiting after prevailing over a bout of throat cancer that would have put most people under. He kicked its ass – living proof of the survival attitude that he, and the other instructors Bill Rogers surrounds himself with, share with their students.
I haven’t taken their Basic class, though it gets rave reviews, but I can tell you from a week of intense personal experience that I give five stars and big thumbs up to the Intermediate/Advanced program at Rogers Shooting School.
Whew! Coming back from the Rogers Shooting School Intermediate/Advanced Course in Ellijay, GA the Evil Princess and I agreed that it was the most fun week we’ve spent together so far this year. We both met our goals…and we both had to work like hell for it.
When it was over, we had each put thousands of rounds of spent brass on the ground. We had also picked them up at the end of each day: this ain’t tennis camp, and you clean up your stuff and leave the place as you found it, just like in the woods.
There are lots of AARs (After Action Reports by students) to be found on the Internet for any shooting school, including Rogers’. The classic one is the series by the late, great Todd Green, eulogized in these pages last month. In one class of heavy hitters I read about, only one shooter actually earned Advanced rank in the demanding 125-target high-speed test. In ours, about a third of the 18 students made Advanced. Bill and his staff told us that was an unusually high percentage.
Gail and I are used to running with the big dogs. In this class, some of those big dogs were more like a wolf pack. The pressure was ON!
In the decades that the Rogers School has been a beacon for SEALs and other high-speed, low drag professional trigger-pullers, you can count on your fingers the world-class shooters who’ve shot a perfect score. Bill Rogers himself, of course, and guys like Manny Bragg, Rob Leatham, and Gabe White. (Google will tell you who those folks are.) No perfect scores were shot last week, but we all watched Rogers himself demonstrate the test and shoot a score in the 120s out of 125 possible, with a Gen4 Glock 17 with duty trigger pull weight and hot NATO 9mm ammunition. Witnessing Bill’s performance was almost worth the price of admission by itself.
Top shot in the class was an 18-year-old kid whose name I can’t use, but it’s a name I expect you’ll be seeing on the match-winners’ lists in International Practical Shooting Confederation championships in years to come.
Yeah, I made Advanced, but by the skin of my teeth and I had to work for it. There are lessons in that, and I’ll discuss those in some detail in the next entry in this blog. In the meantime, feel free to order on DVD Bill’s training vid on what he teaches and why. And, here’s one of my runs on the course caught on smart-phone vid by one of Bill’s masterful instructors, Kyle Armstrong. The drill was draw when the first target comes up and shoot it and its six accomplices in turn as they briefly expose themselves, dominant hand only. Then a pause to reload and go to ready position, and do the same non-dominant hand only. The pistol I’m using is a Springfield Armory XDM 5.25, with Blazer 147 grain 9mm plated bullets, and holster is a Comp-Tac.
Instructors who are gentle but firm with the students. Instructors who explain “Here’s why we do what we do here,’ as opposed to “This is the doctrine!!” Instructors who actually get out there in front of their students, God, and everybody and DEMONSTRATE. And, in this case, a course of fire so challenging that over decades, you can about count on the fingers of one hand the number of people who’ve shot a perfect score at qualification time.
Yes, the Evil Princess and I are loving the Rogers Shooting School Advanced Course, and looking forward to the two days we have left.
The class is full with 18 people, three relays of six working the half-dozen identical computer-controlled steel plate bays. While Relay 1 is shooting, Relay 2 is coaching and counting hits and Relay 3 is refilling magazines. Very efficient, and a great bonding experience. Squads on each position change daily so students can get the experience of coaching, and being coached by, different people.
Class is an interesting mix of cops (mostly firearms instructors), current or former dot-mil, and armed citizens including a couple of physicians and a nurse. I watched the younger of a father-son team pass the Advanced qualification today, only 60% of the way into the course. He accepted the accolade with a quiet pride beyond his years, and I expect his dad is dancing on air.
With some of the relatively small targets fully “up” to the shooter for as little as half a second, and 125 of these targets presented over the course of nine fast-paced stages (some requiring not only one-handed shooting with each hand, but one-hand only speed reloading) I am definitely getting my daily adrenaline requirement along with my already-predicted annual humility requirement.
Here’s a short video of one stage shot by Chris Edwards, who has already passed the Advanced course requirements, shooting his 9mm Glock 17 on what the Rogers School calls “a blast” of targets. (On point to another recent blog discussion, it kinda validates the whole “high capacity magazine” concept…)