Long post - Run away now or grab you a sleeping bag and sandwich.
Good morning, everyone. As a new shooter (will shoot my first match the first week of July) I thought Id share my perspective of attending a Practical Pistol class, for any other new folks that are trying to decide if they just want to jump in to competition or develop some familiarity and foundation first.
WHY TAKE A CLASS ?
We have some great guys here at our local events. I attended our last event here and watched 5 new shooters participate with no DQ's and a single Procedural. Everyone there busted their cans to help the new guys.
As an older guy (56), so much of the sport is overwhelming. In my case, I wanted an intro class or some kind of foundation. Something to teach me what to practice. To understand fundamentals of drawing, sight picture, body ergonomics, target acquisition, flow, etc.
I spoke with Gilbert Perez at Patriot Shooting Academy in Dandridge, Tennessee. After explaining what I was looking for, Gilbert invited me to join his Level II Practical Pistol Class, in spite of my lack of experience. He explained that the class would briefly cover fundamentals before spending the entire day working on drills to shoot accurately at higher speeds. He said that he assesses each shooter and works with them at their respective level. He assured me that I would not slow or hinder the class in any way.
I was told to bring 1000 rounds. Yes, you read that correctly. And yes, we shot over 1000 rounds. Both my hands still hurt.
Gilbert keeps his classes small in order to ensure that people get the most out of each class. I was exceptionally fortunate as a group of people cancelled, expressing concern over the weather. That left 3 of us. A B shooter knocking on Master, if not already there. An older guy (76 year old C shooter that will be a B the second he makes a decision to do so, and a stone cold newb (me).
We started on the 3 yard line with a simple drill. At the beep, draw and put 2 in the Alpha. After a single draw by me, Gilbert started making suggestions for change. Lots of body mechanics stuff. Improvement for me was drastic and immediate. While my early draws took so long that my wife could have gone to get her hair, done, they continued to improve throughout the day. Yes, I am still slower than the speed of small, but about 4 times faster than when I got there. Most importantly, I know my faults and weaknesses, and know exactly what to watch for and work on during dry fire practice at home. Interestingly, my two partners in crime also noted significant time improvements.
One thing that became a theme throughout the day was that Gilbert would push everyone past the point of accurate shooting. He'd push and push until accuracy went to heck, then bring the shooter back to the ragged edge of their respective skill-set. Once there, he would tell the shooter what it would take to take for the shooter to improve.
As the day progressed, things became far more difficult. Drills got complex. Specific target order was assigned to shore up different aspects of flow. And they were assigned in an order that no sane person would ever choose to shoot a stage. It was brutal. It was also an absolute blast.
Throughout these drills, I received constant feedback. Gilbert is a no nonsense guy. He demands your best at all times. He's the first to cheer you on when he sees the slightest bit of improvement. He's also the first guy to shine his shoe on your butt when you blow it. It created some pressure and duress to do my very best for every single shot fired. It made me hungry...….really hungry to learn and improve. My favorite quote of the day ...….
Gilbert - "John, what the hell was THAT?"
Me - " That was a s#!t show and then it got worse."
Gilbert (laughing) - " I agree with your assessment.Now FOCUS!"
Things addressed and taught throughout the day (and this is just the stuff that seemed critical to me) Draw mechanics, sighting and target acquisition, magazine changes, cadence, fluidity, visualization, driving the gun, respecting those targets at distance, stage planning evaluation based on your own personal skill set, and a myriad of other tidbits.
WHAT DID I PERSONALLY LEARN ?
That my draw mechanics are horrible. I keep the gun way too tight to my body and don't aggressively punch out. My draw speed should be consistently fast (for me) regardless of my planned cadence to shoot each target accurately.
I have the icky (technical term) habit of yanking and poking while pulling the trigger. Some of this is attributable to an after-market trigger that does not suit me at all. It was beyond horrid. I tried another guys 34 and the trigger was incredible ! Dropping my gun off at DK Customs today will mean a world of difference to clean up this mess.
I learned my own personal shot cadence. I actually matched it to a song tempo (AC/DC's Whole Lotta Rosie). When I sing the song to myself prior to a stage or drill, I do some of my best fluid shooting. If I speed up, I might as well throw the gun at the target. This was a huge learning moment for me.
In spite of being in the gym six days a week, the mag release on my 34 gen 5, is a nightmare. I cannot timely hit the release without significantly altering my grip. I have to find a resolution for this because it's killing me.
In spite of the above, I love the 34. after a 1000 rounds plus, we have bonded.
Oh and my DPP lasted 1500 rounds which pisses me off. It now turns off after ten 10 seconds no matter what you do. This thing costs way too much money to pee the bed this early in its life. I was shooting 900 fps loads,, not +P's. Get it together Leupold.
I have taken a number of firearms related courses and classes throughout my life. This was easily the best course I have ever taken. I cannot recall working harder, nor learning so much in any other class. It was beyond invaluable. Yes, I am still a slooooooooow hack at best. But I know WHY and most importantly, what I need to work on to improve.
I am no longer nervous about my first match. I will walk it. Will focus on SAFETY and applying what I learned. I will still suck, but I will suck with confidence and I will have fun!