This past weekend I took part in Ernest Langdon’s 2-day Advanced Handgun Skills class. In this AAR, I’m going to try to get some of my notes and class thoughts down on paper.
The class was held at a private range just outside Culpeper, VA. The facility was large and well-equipped, with plenty of space for nine shooters plus Ernie.
I’m going to gloss over a lot of Ernest Langdon’s background, because frankly, it’s too much to relate here. Suffice to say, Ernie has done just about everything a shooter/instructor can do, between his service in the Marine Corps, his professional firearms training, and a very successful competition career.
The students were a mixed bag. Several current or former special warfare types, a couple of federal cops, two parachute designer/instructors, and at least one geeky museum exhibit designer. The overall average level of skill was pretty high. One interesting note – out of the nine students and the instructor, six of us were recreational skydivers.
Gear-wise, three of us ran Smith and Wesson M&Ps, three ran full-size SIGs, and three ran full-size Glocks. A Beretta of some kind made an appearance on the second day. As Ernest said, “That’s a clue!” Most of the students were using drop-leg retention holsters, with a few assorted IWB holsters along for the ride. Ready Tactical magazine carriers seemed to be strongly represented. I don’t recall any major equipment problems.
Saturday started in the garage, with introductions and a short presentation by Ernest. Of particular interest was the section on subconscious performance, and all of the various things that one can do to train his subconscious mind. We covered the combat mindset, situational awareness, and a brief refresher on grip, stance, trigger control, and sight picture.
On the range, we started out by shooting some small groups at fairly close range, just to demonstrate mastery of the basics. Once all the monkeys were on the same branch, we started working on sustained fire strings at progressively faster split times. After that, we started breaking down the drawstroke, starting from the high ready, then from the holster.
We covered multiple targets on TD1, and Ernest had some interesting drills that shook us up a little. One of my favorites was the X Drill, which goes like this. Set up two humanoid silhouette targets at 5-10 yards. Starting either from the holster or high ready, fire two rounds on the body of target A, then two rounds on the head of target B, then two rounds on the head of target A, and finish with two rounds on the body of target B. This is a fairly complicated drill that combines several different aspects of practical shooting; driving the gun target to target, shooting cadence (the head shots should be slower and more precise than the torso shots), and trigger control. I don’t mind saying that I screwed the drill up once or twice…
We went on to cover one-handed shooting, the emergency reload, and a number of other drills. Anytime he saw us getting sloppy, Ernest would have us shoot a small group on a dot target. This constant reinforcement of accuracy was something I found very useful.
Midway through TD1, Todd Green of pistol-training.com fame, showed up to harass us and take some pictures. After class wrapped up for the day, Todd, myself, and a couple other pistol-training.com students went off to chat about guns and shooting, and eat Mexican food. A good end to the day.
First things first, the Frost Diner on Main Street in Culpeper makes a hell of a stack of pancakes. Suitably fortified, I got to the range in time to help set up the moving target system, which is a neat piece of hardware.
We started out the morning with a discussion of concealed carry methods. Ernest brought out some of the various cover garments he had used in the past, and we went over ways to modify one’s clothing to work better with the concealed pistol. Interesting stuff, even for someone who doesn’t carry regularly.
Most of the rest of the class was dedicated to moving while shooting, or else shooting movers. We started with forward movement on single targets, then retreating, then lateral movement. We talked about the Tuller drill, and the importance of getting offline of an attack. Then we worked multiple targets and multiple targets sizes into the mix. One nasty drill had two paper targets bracketing an 8” steel plate. Going from fast hits on paper, to a precise shot on the steel, back to fast hits, all while moving, was enough to fry my brain a few times.
We broke away from movement to look briefly at three-dimensional shooting, and how a high-scoring hit on a 2D target is not necessarily the type of hit that will put down a bad guy. We discussed, again briefly, anatomy and what it takes to stop a human attacker.
Finally, we did quite a bit of shooting on moving targets, both the swinger type and the lateral mover. We were really getting into combined skill drills at this point – moving targets while moving, multiple moving targets, and the like. Anything that would force us out of our comfort zones. The final drill we practiced was two laterally moving targets, engaged while advancing and retreating. Fun!
I’m not a hardcore shooting class attendee – counting this one, I’ve done three pistol classes in the past two years. That said, this is one I’d like to attend again. Ernest Langdon is a fantastic instructor. He has all the tools – tremendous shooting ability, a low-key personality, excellent diagnostic skills, and the ability to keep a class full of type-A shooters on target and motivated. I learned a great deal in this class, added a few new drills to my training journal, and came away with, I think, a better understanding of the mechanics of high-speed, high-precision shooting.
A major side benefit of this class, especially for my cake-eating-civilian self, was to hang out with some actual operators and get their take on things. The discussions we had while eating lunch and stuffing magazines covered a huge range of topics, from next-gen 5.56mm antipersonnel loads, to vacationing in South America. These bull sessions alone were worth the price of admission.
My only real complaint is that there were a few things that we didn’t cover, that I wish we had time for. The one thing we didn’t cover, that I really wanted to, was shooting from improvised positions. I would have traded the 3D target segment for some work on shooting from the ground, seated in a car, etc. I would also have liked to spend some more time on the complex movement drills.
In closing, thanks go out to Ernest for an excellent weekend of instruction, SKD Joe for putting the admin-work in, the anonymous range owner for letting us use one of the nicest ranges in the DC area, and to all my fellow students for some great shooting, interesting stories, and once-fired brass. Next open-enrollment class that Ernest hosts in the area, you can be sure I’ll be there.
Note – cross-posted at M4Carbine.net