Sorry to be away from the blog longer than usual. It was a busy week, and frankly, a busy month. I spent last week teaching an advanced 40-hour MAG-80 class at Firearms Academy of Seattle. The prior three weeks had encompassed MAG-40 classes, also 40 hours each, in Colorado hosted by Hershell and Denise Phillips, Alaska hosted by Todd and Tammy Smith, and at FAS hosted by Marty and Gila Hayes. Many thanks to them and the great range safety/coaching crews they put on the firing line.
There was no time to comment on what else was happening in our world, and there was much.
With no advance warning (and, apparently, no input from the affected industry) our President issued an Executive Order that could have a profound, business-killing impact on the most vulnerable corner of the firearms industry. Read that and tell me how it’s going to reduce crime or man’s inhumanity to man on a larger scale, or be anything but a mean-spirited slap in the face of the firearms industry and the law abiding people who buy that industry’s products.
In Baltimore, after trials of three of the six officers accused in the death of Freddie Gray resulted in one hung jury and acquittals on the rest, the prosecutors decided to drop the pending cases. How coincidental that this decision came right after a judge announced that defense lawyers for the accused cops would be able to cross examine prosecutors about issues in the matter, such as the prosecutors’ failure to furnish exculpatory evidence to the defense.
Ya know, if this was an online class in Ethics 101 instead of the firearms blog at Backwoods Home, we could get some interesting learning points out of this. Had the decision-making district attorney said “OK, so maybe we shouldn’t have thrown cops under the bus without evidence to placate rioters and uninformed crowds,” I would have to give such reasoning a thumbs up for being ethical in the here and now as opposed to when the decision to bring those cases was made.
Or if District Attorney Marilyn Mosby had even said, “Hey, I personally think those cops did wrong and should be prosecuted, but after failing to gain a conviction three times out of three, I have to consider my fiduciary duty to the public as an elected official not to waste the taxpayers’ dollars on cases unsupported by facts in evidence, so I’m dropping the charges,” well, I’d have had to judge that action with that motivation as being within ethical parameters.
But if this blog was an online ethics class, I’d have to say:
“Class, your optional assignment is to write an essay on the theme of, If You Do The Right Thing For The Wrong Reason, Have You Still Really Done the Right Thing?”
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…)
Wikitionary (yes, that’s a word and a thing) defines “busman’s holiday” thus: “First recorded in 1893 in the UK. The idea is that a busman, to go off on a holiday, would take an excursion by bus, thereby engaging in a similar activity to his work.” Whenever I hear it, I channel to the Mark Twain quote I first heard from my old friend and colleague, the great police trainer Ed Nowicki: “If you love your job, you never have to actually work a day in your life.”
The Evil Princess and I are off to Rogers Shooting School in Ellijay, Georgia for the next week, to take their advanced handgun course. Why? I learned a few things when I was a little kid, to wit:
If you aren’t good at taking orders, you probably won’t be good at giving them…
…if you can’t read, you can’t write…
…and if you don’t learn, you can’t teach, at least not very well for very long.
During first quarter 2016, I was able to spend a week learning at the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association annual conference in Chicagoland, and three days at Tom Givens’ superb Rangemaster Tactical Conference held this year at the Memphis Police Academy in Tennessee. I taught at both, but at the Rogers school, our only scheduled “training for US” in 2nd quarter 2016, I get to be purely in student mode. We’ve ordered a case of ammo per day for each of us. WOOT!
We’ve been wanting to take Bill’s legendary course and skill test for a very long time, and a confluence of scheduling finally allows it. I’ve known Bill for decades, shot against him in his heyday when he was on the “pro tour,” and don’t remember ever beating him. Those are the kind of people you can really learn from in the given discipline. Ain’t gonna even try to predict how I’ll do, but if I get my Annual Humility Requirement all in five days, well, that won’t be a bad thing either. I’ve always learned more from screwing up than I did from doing things right, and learning is our purpose in going.
What about y’all? Any training plans for this year? Observations on training in general? Discussion is welcome here.