Quiet Professional Defense Training: Back to the Basics

As I have mentioned before in articles, I like to consider myself a life long student. This year I am setting a goal to attend some type of firearms training or event every month.

I realized over the past few years that I have been taking more advanced classes progressively. One thing I have never done is gone back to the basics. In the US it is a right to bear arms; I believe it is a personal responsibility to be proficient with any weapon that you own and use. One fear I have with hours and countless repetitions of dry fire is that I have engineered poor manipulations. While I confirm skills by doing live fire, my groups are just not as tight as I would like them to be.

At SHOT, this past year, I ran into a familiar face–one of the team leaders from my Iraq deployment. His name is Oscar Sanchez, and one of the things that I remembered about him was during our pre-deployment shooting package (analogous to SOTG), he was the only student that scored a perfect throughout the course. He also demonstrated firearms knowledge above and beyond even the other Recon Marines. Oscar currently runs a training company that conducts many courses, from concealed handgun licensing through precision long range, to civilians, law enforcement, and military.

Fundamentals are for everyone; not just beginners.

I had already had in my mind to go “back to the basics” and take training that would reinforce the fundamentals of shooting. The perfect storm was created–why not take a class from someone I recall as being a consummate professional on the range (and off)? After reviewing their website, I was initially interested in Quiet Professional’s Basic Handgun Course. After discussing my goals with Oscar, he suggested taking their next upcoming concealed handgun licensing (CHL) class. In New Mexico, a typical CHL class is 15 hours of classroom (by regulation) and an amazingly hard 25 round qualification (sarcasm)–and most classes are not going to go much beyond that number. I raised an eyebrow, and then he explained that their CHL course required 250 rounds. Okay, that is more what I was looking for…

Classroom

The classroom part of the course is exactly what you should expect, with the exception that Quiet Professional’s course exceeded the minimum requirement. I have been through a number of CHL courses (in multiple states) over the course of my various careers. Let’s just say the material is generally pretty dry, full of legalese, and typically death by PowerPoint.  That is generally followed by a sad and minimal shoot on the range. Quiet Professional’s course was a little more dynamic. There was a slide deck, but the material was well supplemented with discussions and examples.

The other thing that is a departure from other courses, and really set the expectation for the rest of this course, was the class handout. It was a bound booklet, full-color, including the PowerPoint slides. Yes, it is a small detail, but I’ve been in classes where you get a poorly photocopied set of the local regulations (and the course went downhill from there). If the organization is going to offer handouts, but doesn’t put in the effort to do a professional job, what else are they potentially deficient with? I mention this because, as you take courses to better your skills, don’t pick courses just because of an instructor’s name. Instructors may be extremely proficient skills-wise, but are poor at imparting the material, or are poor with organization. Good teachers possess the trifecta of competent skills, the ability to educate, and course management.

Range Time

The shooting part of the course was where the class departed from standard CHL curriculum and was the material I was most interested in, having maintained a CHL in some form, or another, for the past 17 years.

Another difference in this class is that all of the instructors demonstrated the drills live. They performed at the level (and beyond) that they expected us to be at.

A safety brief was given, and the drills were explained. First up would be working through the presentation of the handgun while dry, and “by the numbers.” Honestly, this was the meat of the class and the part that helped make the biggest difference. The five main components or presentation are:

  1. Acquire a final, firm firing grip
  2. “Rock and Lock” (cute phrase for bringing the gun up to a retention hold against the body)
  3. Acquire two-handed grip
  4. Acquire sight alignment/sight picture
  5. Press trigger

In those five steps, a wealth of nuance was provided. For instance, somewhere along the way, I had developed a bad habit of gripping the firearm with equal maximal pressure. This was creating way too much tension in my whole platform. Instead, I was instructed to lighten my grip to more of a “firm, steady handshake.”

We even had a southpaw in the class.

I also had developed the habit of pointing everything at the target–right thumb stacked on top of left. This initial firing grip put my thumb tight against the frame, which balled up the base of my thumb, and didn’t allow my support hand to effectively contact the frame, creating a slight gap. I compensated for this with the overly tense grip. Which created fatigue, and a general inconsistent press of the trigger. Little details like that were some of the fundamentals I had lost and had a hard time recognizing myself. The other consequence of too tight a grip, and stacked thumbs, on my Glock 17 was that my thumb would sometimes activate the slide release throughout the firing process, and my slide would not lock back. Weak spring? Nope. Bad grip.

Dot Torture is one of the best pistol marksmanship drills you can do. And in this “basic” CHL class, we spent time doing it.

I also had a small problem with occasionally “peeking,” especially when I felt I had thrown a round. This was nothing more than bad follow through. I would drop a round, which made me peek, which in turn lead to dropping more rounds, ad nauseum.

I was also reminded of a few other concepts I had simply forgotten the reason for doing and had eliminated from my practicing. Conducting a chamber check before reholstering is an example. I figured that when I ran dry, I would just change out my magazine as normal. I would know I was dry because my slide would lock back, right? Except, because of my flawed grip, sometimes the slide would drop on an empty chamber. I could technically be holstering a “hammer” and not a firearm. Doing a chamber check after the shooting set, allows me to visually inspect and confirm there is at least a single round in the chamber.

Graduation

After a weekend of training (minus the required classroom time since this was technically a CHL class), I saw immediate improvement. And I picked up many pointers that will help during future practice. I could probably double the size of this article discussing the drills and other gems from the class. Suffice to say it was a well spent weekend (though one could argue any weekend spent on the range is a good weekend).

Overall was a good reminder for me to go back and, not only focus on fundamentals but to get some outside feedback from professionals. The instructors of the Quiet Professional Defense class I took (Oscar, Harrison, Chuck, and Paul) conducted top notch training, even during a “lowly” CHL course. Despite being what most people would consider being a very entry level class, the basic pistol instruction was far above the level I was expecting and may have unfairly set future expectations for the students in the class that were new to concealed carry.

The takeaway from this article is, every once and a while, forget about the high-speed, cool-guy training and get back to fundamentals. Ensure your building blocks are rock solid, and remember the quote (attributed to Vince Lombardi): “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.”

And if you happen to be interested in some excellent training, especially in our wonderful state, I recommend checking out Quiet Professional Defense: http://qprodefense.com/

Note: The author paid for this class in full with his own funds.





Tom is a former Navy Corpsman that spent some time bumbling around the deserts of Iraq with a Marine Recon unit, kicking in tent flaps and harassing sheep. Prior to that he was a paramedic somewhere in DFW, also doing some Executive Protection work between shifts. Now that those exciting days are behind him, he has embraced his inner “Warrior Hippie” and assaults 14er in his sandals and beard, or engages in rucking adventure challenges while consuming craft beer. To fund these adventures, he writes medical software and builds websites and mobile apps. His latest venture is as one of the founders of IronSights.com; a search engine for all things gun related. He hopes that his posts will help you find solid gear that will survive whatever you can throw at it–he is known (in certain circles) for his curse…ahem, ability…to find the breaking point of anything.


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  • Nicks87

    You know the best instructors are the ones that emphasize the basics and then build on that foundation. I think firearms training is extremely important but has lost much of its attractiveness because of how polluted the “Youtube” firearms community has become. People have developed disdain for firearms training because too many ego driven narcissists on the internet are trying to sell their “system”. It’s always refreshing to hear about instructors that haven’t jumped the shark yet and are doing things the right way.

    • Doc Rader

      Agreed. And I think people fall into that same trap as well. Always chasing the “flashy” and forgetting the fundamentals. Which in turn drives what the market offers, etc.

    • Everyone is selling their system, even if their system isn’t a fixed system.

      Personally the egos don’t annoy me as much as every week you have some new super tactically named training company. Typically started by a veteran, providing little details into the backgrounds of their instructors, nor any way of gauging their skill.

      What separates Super Ninja Tactical vs Bearded Viking Defense? They both list the usual classes, they both list their instructors graduating from various military schools that provide little clue into their level of skill in guns.

      In particular how does one gauge their skill with the pistol, which is the primary defensive weapon my most civilians that these schools sell to. The only clues to an instructor’s skill level that they provide is a brief overview of their MIL/LE training. I’ve personally found that outside of some SOCOM units and the military shooting team units, I’ve never met anyone that developed a high level of pistol skill on the military’s dime. Granted there maybe some that have, but I haven’t seen or heard of enough of them to develop a rule yet. The LE/MIL dudes I know that high level of pistol skill, who didn’t come from those select few units, typically developed it on their own.

      • Doc Rader

        And on top of that–what have they done lately. We all know shooting is a perishable skill. And if that instructor’s core training was years ago, and they are just relying on their reputation, but are not taking regular training themselves and/or daily practicing, I would argue that their skills are not what they were. Some of that can be mitigated if they are both good instructors (know how to teach) and have the ability to run and manage a class.

      • The_Champ

        “I’ve personally found that outside of some SOCOM units and the military shooting team units, I’ve never met anyone that developed a high level of pistol skill on the military’s dime.”

        Speaking from my own military experience, I agree with you 100% on this point. Even the long gun training your average soldier gets in the military can often be lackluster.

  • Ace of Lances

    Thank God we have you veterans; us civvies can rest easier knowing you guys are here as a deterrent to those who would destroy the nations our fathers built, and be able to train our kids to do more than just hunt for food. I do my best teaching my girls about the tools themselves and how to hunt with them, hoping it’s a good start to being prepared. It is comforting to see some militias growing and adding trained vets to their ranks of teachers. Thank you for your continued service.
    Question for everyone: my oldest is 10, a tall but slight girl, used to hunting in Canadian winters though, with her .410 and 22 LR. We can’t get handguns, I don’t have a restricted licence and can’t afford handguns anyway…What would be your opinion for an intermediate caliber carbine? 9mm carbine? Soviet X39mm, or .38? Or is it better to start her on a .243 / 7mm-08? I only have experience on .303 Brit and 30-30, but I don’t think she can hold a lever gun and the .303 is too much kick even for me. Any advice?

    • Doc Rader

      For what purpose? I’m assuming defense (since you mentioned hunting already)…?

      Doctrine-wise, a handgun is generally just to buy time to get to a long gun (not saying one can’t be effective with a handgun, but physics just doesn’t lie…). And focus and practice, practice, practice on fundamentals of shooting.

      If you have access to try stuff, just try different things and find what works for her. A well placed round is always going to be better than a caliber of any size, so whatever she can shoot well, to the distances she needs to shoot is the right option.

      PCC are really not going to be terribly effective at decent range, but can sure do some accurate shooting closer in. .243/7mm would probably be a great option. Heck, even .223 would be good.

      • Ace of Lances

        I’d like her to have .243 at least to hunt deer with me, up here caliber must be +.24 to hunt cpx2. We are so isolated there are no places to test anything out, so I wanted to ask. I’m more thinking for hunting, she has defense buck shot and slugs in .410
        Is a .243 about equivalent to say, her .410 for recoil? I don’t want her to get flinch. Thanks for replying, like I say, we’re pretty isolated so it’s hard to get advice.

        • The_Champ

          .243 is a pretty standard recommendation for new/smaller shooters getting into big game hunting. Can’t go wrong with that.

          Also thinking outside of the box a bit, a CZ 527 in 7.62 x 39 would still be sufficient for deer hunting at limited ranges, and have even less recoil to deal with. Limited choices though on proper hunting ammo.

          • Ace of Lances

            The Howa MA looks just about perfect; something I would use as well. I took the scope off my lever gun and it would make a nice package for her. Weight is right too! I know lots of kids around here love banging off those x39’s all day in those SKS guns, but I never thought of the rounds for hunting because they were old surplus; but I see some x39 in soft point from a site I can order from. The local fishing store can order in Howa, they are a distributor. Now to save up! I’ve thought about .223 as well, I’ve only ever got coyotes with .22 LR. and that’s when they’re close, like 50 yards max, and usually need a follow-up to put em down; it would be nice to be able to get a headshot at twice that, she sure loves coyote fur throws.
            Thanks for the advice, everyone! Cheers!

          • Thomas Gomez

            7.62 x39 Golden Tiger is MOA! Tom R and I shot one of those little guns to 1000 yards and hit an 18 inch steel plate. Awesome little guns. Here is our review.

            http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2016/08/15/gun-review-howa-miniaction-rifle/

          • Ace of Lances

            I love this, it’s perfect. Thank you; like I said, my local lureshop is a Howa distributor, but they just don’t stock them, so I haven’t seen these! Pricey, but with good quality, I’d save and pay for. The .410 that I bought her turned out really crappy, a Khan Arms 100 or something, folding single shot. Very poor quality. She still uses the Cricket she got when she was four, that’s been a great rifle, and her savage 64 is okay but not great. I realize now that with new guns, you need to put out real cash to get any quality. I still use, as a 22lr, my great grandmother’s Cooey 39, that she used to plink rats from off the doorstep at a hundred yards! And it’s still that good, though my aim isn’t 🙂
            I need practice too, and this little x39 looks like just the thing.

          • Thomas Gomez

            Its a neat rifle and one of my favorite!

          • Madcap_Magician

            Those CZ 527 carbines are the most underrated little gems…

        • Thomas Gomez

          For training, just get her a 5.56 rifle. .243 recoil can be awful through a lite rifle. If you want her to hunt, get her a .308 and put a brake on it. 7.62×39 is also a good round for training. Howa makes the Mini Action series of rifles. 7.62×39 would also be perfect for whitetail deer out to 150 – 175 yards.

  • Michael Bane

    Great story, Tom, and an excellent leading point! Every year, year and a half, I go back to GUNSITE and take the 250/350 basic pistol course (5 or 6 times now). Like anyone who shoots a lot, bad habits have a way of sneaking in and chipping away at core skills. Hope to see you at NRA, my friend!

    Michael B

  • nova3930

    Can never go wrong training and practicing fundamentals….

  • Joshua

    “Focus on the fundamentals, everything you need to know is in the book”
    points to whoever recognizes the source