Review: Larry Vickers Handgun/Carbine 1 Class

Larry Vickers, retired U.S. Army Delta force combat veteran.

One thing that is great about the firearms industry is that you can get access to some of the best, top-notch instructors in the world. Many of them travel all across the world to teach students the basics, and all the way up to advanced marksmanship skills.

Larry Vickers has been around the block a number of times and I recently had the opportunity to take his “Handgun/Carbine 1” class targeted toward folks who want to go to the next level. It is not a beginner’s course.

As with many firearm instructors, Larry has quite the personality. While world champion and instructor Robert Vogel is a mellow, even-keeled personality, Larry Vickers is a bit more brash and excitable. You will be entertained by the insightful and colorful conversations that take place during his course, and that alone is close to the price of admission ($550 for this two-day course).

For the two-day course, students were instructed to bring their a semi-auto rifle and pistol, 500 rounds of ammo for each, multiple magazines, CQB rifle optic, and a flashlight.

The course started off with an interesting discussion around the NRA’s four safety rules and how they are really fixed in a range context. When you’re out in the real world, bad guys aren’t going to be “downrange” in front of a 180 degree safety line. You should train to scan all around you, 360 degrees.

We spent a considerable amount of time zeroing rifles which was a valuable exercise for many students whose scopes were not zeroed. Starting at the 25 yard line, students fired 3-5 shot groups and adjusted their sights accordingly.

Students getting ready to shoot.

Students getting ready to shoot.

It was great to see a few women taking the course.

Students engaging their targets. It was great to see a few women taking the course.

Heads up that Larry is a huge Aimpoint fan, and you may get berated for having something different. But just because Aimpoint works for Larry doesn’t mean it will work for you. That said, Aimpoint makes some very good CQB optics. In the end, you gotta try different scopes and make your own decision.

The rest of the day was practicing with the rifle in kneeling, standing, and prone positions at varying distances. The group of 18 students went in two volleys in each position, and Larry provided feedback to shooters the entire way.

Students prone at the 25 yard line

Students prone at the 25 yard line

Students prone at the 100 yard line.

Students prone at the 100 yard line.

Day 2 was focused on pistol work. Larry discussed how self-defense pistols should have a trigger weight between 4-6 pounds which falls within the general convention I hear elsewhere. Lighter trigger weight can lead to accidental discharges. Larry ran the class through a great drill where you place a penny or dime on the front sight of the pistol. The student then dry fires their pistol once and the goal is to keep the coin on the front sight. Students paired up and practiced this drill multiple times.

A student intently focuses on trigger control, dry firing while balancing a penny on his front sight.

A student intently focuses on trigger control, dry firing while balancing a penny on his front sight.

Larry then added an extra element of stress and introduced a timed buzzer. We started our dry fire squeeze on the first beep, and had to complete the squeeze before the second beep. It was a very effective drill balancing speed and stability.

We then moved into a drill where we shot with our strong hand, weak hand, and then both hands at 5, 10, and 20 yards. The goal was to put all shots within the black center mass zone of the target.

While students shot two handed, Larry shot one handed and landed all his shots on paper. Like a pro.

While students shot two handed, Larry shot one handed and landed all his shots on paper. Like a pro.

Larry went through a number of other trigger control drills and a number of other interesting topics and discussions. Since I don’t want to give everything away for free, you’ll have to attend one of Larry’s classes to learn from a seasoned professional.

Larry Vickers and Chris Cheng.

Larry Vickers and Chris Cheng.

Chris Cheng

Chris Cheng is History Channel’s Top Shot Season 4 champion and author of “Shoot to Win,” a book for beginning shooters. A self-taught amateur turned pro through his Top Shot win, Cheng very much still considers himself an amateur who parachuted into this new career.

He is a professional marksman for Bass Pro Shops who shares his thoughts and experiences from the perspective of a newbie to the shooting community. He resides in San Francisco, CA and works in Silicon Valley.


  • JumpIf NotZero

    Chris, nice write up.

    It’s nice to see at least one woman there. Far too many men don’t seek formal training, and that’s sadly even more true for women. For me I’m starting to find its a big head or ego thing, perhaps dude thinks he learned enough with his four years in the mil 20 years ago, or just thinks range time is the same or better than real training; but for women I have to think it’s an intimidation factor.

    Looks like a PPQ in the third to last picture. Excellent guns.

    How much time did you spend on malf clearance with the handgun or carbine? Any strong/weak hand only firing? One handed manipulation?

    Also, 18 student is a lot. I assume there was a range host, but was Vickers the only instructor?

    • Hi JumpIf NotZero,

      Thanks for your comments, let me see if I can tackle all your questions:

      1) Not a lot of time spent on malfunction clearing. I would consider that part of a beginners course, which this was not. We did strong/weak hand firing as mentioned. No one-handed manipulation.
      2. Vickers was it. The course ran smoothly.
      3. Yes, we broke for lunch and students had to provide their own lunch. Some folks went off site, others ate sack lunches.
      4. The days started at different times and so the class ended around 9PM the first day, and 6PM the second day.
      5. There was low-light discussion and I actually had to leave a few hours before the end of the potential night shooting day.
      6. Yes.
      7. Day 1 was pretty long and lots of students were getting tired. Day 2 was also tough and at about Hour 4-5 we had a discussion about having to push through.

      • JumpIf NotZero

        Thanks! I’m trying to figure a few things out in terms of LV’s teaching method and this class/article.

        1 follow up. Yea, I saw you write this was not a beginner’s course; You and I might have different levels of what constitutes that. Minor malf clearing if any, how about strong/weak transitions? I’ll assume no vehicle work or anything like that, but how about uncommon shooting positions (supine, urban prone for instance)? Barricades? Cover/Concealment? I guess it sounds let’s say, more “entry-level” as “beginner” could be the absolute newbie who is confused as to which end the “pew” comes out of. “Entry level” is what the Level 1 in the title would imply. In short, I’m just trying to gauge where a Vickers “1” is relative to other instruction. I once took a handgun “2” class that was extremely advanced for example and have taken an advanced handgun class that was I felt easier in some respects.

        4 follow up. Ok, I didn’t really get much from that. I was wondering over two class days, approx how many hours on the range (not lunch, not waits/delays, etc), amount of actual instruction or shooting time you estimate. Not holding you to anything just curious to compare to classes I’ve taken.

        6 follow up. Just out of curiosty, when checking behind you, does LV insist or prefer you Sul a handgun close to the chest muzzle down, or opposite up in the air in a ten-gun/high-port, forearm and muzzle vertical in strong hand? What about carbine? OR were you instructed to keep the muzzle downrange at all times? Even when checking behind you for this class?

        • No vehicle work, no strong/weak hand transitions, and no uncommon shooting positions. In fact, Larry made a point that he thinks “uncommon” shooting positions are not worth the training because they are, by definition uncommon and unlikely to be used in a non-military scenario.

          Removing things like lunch, waiting, delays, I estimate we received about seven hours of instruction each day.

          We were simply instructed to keep the muzzle pointed down range at a low ready, even when checking behind us since we were at a range and could not break the 180.

          Hope that helps!

          • JumpIf NotZero

            That’s great, that does help. Thanks for getting back to me on those!

  • To Tin Fung

    i’m not sure if i’m supportive of larry vickers. I mean sure, green beret veteran, knows his stuff. but like you mentioned, he berates you if u dont have an aimpoint? I mean come on, have you watched his show Tactical Impact on Youtube? It’s blatant product placement.

    • JumpIf NotZero

      So… The options are endorse the product you believe in, or try and be fair to the product you hate while pretending people aren’t making a mistake (his opinion) by using one?

      He likes aimpoints, and is sponsored by aimpoint, I’m not sure what the problem is. Did Larry Vickers claim he was impartial? Are you saying he should be?

      Here is the thing… If I show up to a class with a Taurus Judge and the instructors coddle me and help me work through how dumb that gun is for defense – that’s a class I don’t want to be in. I want to go to the class where they will laugh at me, watch me struggle, then give me a loaner Glock to use along with a promise I will sell the Taurus asap. While guns and training can be fun, there are still serious aspects about all of this. There are absolutely some things you should be berated for, it helps drive the point home sometimes.

      • To Tin Fung

        No what I mean is, I get it, he’s an aimpoint guy, whatever. But I don’t see how a person should get flak if he brings, let’s say an EOTech or a Mepro to the class. He’s all like oh, you should get an Aimpoint, that’s better. No, different systems all have use in different places. This shouldn’t be the case.

      • chupa

        There’s a way to tell people the merits of one product over another without berating them or make them look like a fool. That’s called professionalism.

        I took a class with him a few years ago. Drove 12 hours to train with him. And throughout two days, he wouldn’t stop bitching and complaining about other instructors. I’ve taken classes with these other instructors and their mantra is “here’s why it works for me, you’ll have to try and see if it works for you.” That’s professionalism as an instructor.

  • Dave K

    Call me stupid, but it seems from vickers website, this course was in the peoples republic of california. Why do I see 30 round, illegal/assault magazines?

    • JumpIf NotZero

      I was clicks away from talking a precision class is Puma CA awhile back. I had to check on this. AT THE TIME, I was instructed by police that for training purposes it was acceptable to temporarily bring in 20 and 30 round mags for the duration of that class. Didn’t really want to mess around with flying into LAX with my precision AR, silencer and eight 20 round mags… Just figured that was asking for trouble despite the go ahead I was given.

    • There is a grandfather law.

  • J

    “Day 2 was focused on pistol work. Larry discussed how self-defense pistols should have a trigger weight between 4-6 pounds which falls within the general convention I hear elsewhere. Lighter trigger weight can lead to accidental discharges.”

    Yes, many say that. However some advocate differently. Cooper went for 2.5 to 3.5 points in his book (To Ride, …, page 98). Notably here he was discussing single action, not safe action, pull weight.

  • Flyingchipmunk

    I would be extremely frustrated if I went to what was considered and advanced course and we spent considerable time zeroing rifles. If I spend 550 on a class plus ammo I expect to spend my time working on skills, not ensuring other students came prepared. I can see a check at the beginning if your gear shifted or something but having it be a notable part of the course seems ridiculous

    • To clarify, this was not an advanced course. As mentioned in the main article this was “not a beginner’s course.” So something in between, let’s say intermediate 🙂

      I was surprised at how many students’ optics were off, but if you think about it it makes sense. You can zero a CQB/red dot scope at many distances, and Larry needed everyone to know their zeros. What I saw in this group of students was a lot of good lessons learned and knowledge transfer, which is of course the point.

      I imagine since this is not Larry’s first rodeo that he knows for this course level that spending good time zeroing scopes is bound to happen.

    • JumpIf NotZero

      I agree, but trust me, no matter how advanced the class is, zeroing WILL eat up some time. Happens every-time except handgun classes.

      I’ve been that guy that didn’t show up with a great zero, never again.

  • Joe Del Zotto

    Great write up as usual Chris! You mentioned that students were told to bring their semi-auto weapons, do you know if you are allowed to take and use full auto weapons and other NFA equipment to the course (suppressors, SBR’s)?

  • I think this is not an advanced, but a basic course. Anyway people can learn a lot even in this.