An Overview of the Handgun III Training Course at Sim-Trainer
On November 6th, I took the 3rd course in the Sim-Trainer Handgun I-V series. The Handgun III course combines the skills developed in the previous two courses, as the students get their first exposure to shooting while moving. Shooting on the move is a critical skill to develop. Chances are you won’t ever be involved in a Western movie style shoot-out where you and your assailant stand motionless opposite from one another. Nor is it likely you’ll ever be attacked while in the stall of your local practice range. It’s going to be in your house, or in your car, or walking down the street. Your attacker will likely be moving, and you will too – particularly if your attacker is armed. But while “shooting on the move” is extremely challenging, all the fundamentals of good shooting still apply – grip, sight alignment, and trigger control. You MUST master these fundamentals before you can attempt to shoot while moving. Minor errors caused by not mastering the fundamentals will likely cause you to be slightly off target while statically shooting, but the effects of these errors are amplified while you’re in motion to the point where you’ll likely be completely off-target. TIP: If you’re not not practicing what you learned in Handgun 1&2 at home, you’ll likely find yourself struggling in Handgun III.
At the beginning of the class, we were split into two groups and taken down range – one group was with Sim-Trainer owner and NRA Certified Instructor Jeff Pedro, and the other group was with NRA Certified Instructor Mark Avery. The bulk of Handgun III is spent downrange from the stalls, running through practice drills designed to first get you used to the idea of moving and shooting, then later to push and stretch your skills. Here’s a video clip of the first exercise where this student is simply walking straight forward toward the target, and walking straight back:
Notice the speed at which this student is walking – “slow is fast” is the operative phrase here. The number one mistake people tend to make (beyond missing the fundamentals) is moving faster than which they are capable of shooting accurately. Here’s a second video of another student performing the same drill – you’ll see Jeff Pedro correcting him on his stance and trigger control.
After getting us used to the idea of shooting while moving, we progressed to the next challenge stage – box drills. Box drills involving navigating a box outline tapped on the floor, with an “X” pattern tapped in the center. Students were asked to walk in a defined pattern around the box, moving diagonally along the “X” pattern at times. Here’s a clip of a student running through a box drill:
Folks, this one is hard. I tend to move well forward, backward, and side-to-side. But diagonally? Remember, you can’t be looking at your feet to make sure you are staying on the line. Here’s a clip of one of the more experienced shooters from the Tactical Tuesday league. He movements are polished and smooth and as you can see, even he was challenged by walking diagonally:
After the box drills we did several drills where we fired, then moved to cover. One of the biggest goals during an engagement is to seek cover or at least concealment:
Each drill we did progressively pushed our personal envelope to the next level – the cover drills eventually incorporated shooting a moving target.
Obviously being involved in an actual engagement is a stressful situation. So instructors Jeff Pedro and Mark Avery incorporate several elements of stress into the Handgun 3 exercises in order to better prepare students for a real world encounter. Most of the exercises are timed – which in and of itself adds a tremendous amount of stress. They will also take any opportunity they have to “yell” at you and get you “flustered.” God help you if your magazine runs dry or you experience a mechanical failure during these exercises – I think Jeff lives for these moments. Jeff or Mark will run over to you and start yelling “GET THAT MAGAZINE CHANGED!!!” Jeff will tell you during the training that his methods are the same he’s used to train police officers and civilians for years and they work because he knows they work. In my experience however, one size does not fit all when it comes to teaching and instruction. If I do something wrong, and you come over and berate me for it, you know what happens? I get mad. Now I’m trying to learn and master skills without a clear head, which only leads to more mistakes and more chastisement….so I wrestled with a lot of frustration during the evening.
Everyone that I spoke to prior said that Handgun III was the most fun of the Hangun I-V series – during the course we even got the opportunity to shoot frangeable ammo at metal targets, which everyone loves. Personally, I found the course very challenging – it was hard work. I was pushing and stretching myself, and trying to manage a lot of frustration. Did I enjoy it? Honestly, of all the courses I’ve taken at Sim-Trainer, I enjoyed it the least, but perhaps learned the most. Which means it was an extremely valuable course which I grew from, and will likely take it again. I’m sure if I ever have to use my gun to defend myself I’ll be very thankful that I took this course.