Monday, May 10, 2021

DTI's Off-body Carry Instructor's Class

Due to the 'Rona, I got moved from DTI's February Instructor Development course to their Off-body Carry Instructor's Course. While I was disappointed to miss the chance to learn under both John and Vicki Farnam, I jumped at the chance to take Vicki's Off-body Instructor's course.

I don't think I've ever been the instructor who says, "NEVER carry off-body". I've always tried to be aware that there is a time and place for it, and that additional thought and training needs to occur. I'd been meaning to sign up for Vicki's straight off-body carry course, but hadn't gotten around to it. Getting moved in to the instructor's course was a happy side effect of catching Covid from Jay and having to miss the February class.

It was immediately apparent that this was going to be a completely different class than anything I'd ever taken before. Vicki runs her classroom range with a compassionate, but firm, hand. I've only previously trained under men before, and it was striking to see the difference between her teaching style and others. There was no hand-holding, or patting on the head. She set standards and held us to them. It was refreshing. If she had to lay the smack down on someone, she did, but it was never personal.

Don't hate me too much for this analogy, but the way she corrected people was very similar to the way a good horse trainer corrects a horse. The correction is concise and immediate, then it's back to business as usual. No personal judgements or feelings involved, just a mild correction (or not so mild, if the initial correction didn't take). Incidentally, Vicki's daughter is a horse trainer, and if she learned this correction technique from her mother, she's probably a very good horse trainer.

But I digress ...

While I learned about drawing from purses, my biggest take-aways were in how to teach. In my past life, I was Associate Dean of a career college, and spent fifteen years teaching professionally. The skills I learned teaching adults in a career college have crossed over nicely to teaching adults in the firearms industry. I'm a good teacher.

However, watching and learning from a great teacher was a gift. I've always been a believer in teaching "baby steps", but Vicki breaks it down a bit more. We started learning the skills with blue guns, then practiced with dry (unloaded and verified) guns, before transitioning to live guns. We took copious breaks that allowed us to decompress and discuss what we were learning.

Her co-instructor, Gloria, was a wealth of information regarding the Gun Tote'n Momas (GTM) bags, and which accessories worked best with them. Rather than telling us which bag was best and why, Vicki and Gloria gave us some things to think about, and then allowed us to come to our own conclusions about whether or not a bag was going to work for us and why. 

Research shows that we learn more from failing than succeeding the first time out the gate (or even the second or third time), so by letting us fail using the blue guns, and then trusting us to figure it out with some gentle guidance went a long way. Often, instructors (myself included) tend to jump in and "help" someone who is struggling instead of just letting them work through the problem. When I jump in, it's not because I don't think they can do it, but rather to keep the class on track. However, in doing so, I'm robbing the student of the opportunity to gain confidence in their problem solving abilities. And, as we know, being able to confidently handle a gun is one of the keys to using one successfully in a defensive encounter.

For years, I would have never considered carrying off-body. Yes, it was a choice, but it wasn't the right choice for me. However, after spending three days learning the ins and outs, I can now honestly say, it's an option I wouldn't have considered for myself previously. There are pros and cons to each method of carry, but I'm now confident that I can present a gun safely from a purse. Can I do it as fast as from midline IWB? Not yet, maybe not ever. But, there is an advantage to the urban camouflage of a purse. Also, there are a lot of things I just flat-out don't carry as part of my EDC load-out, because it's cumbersome. I usually have my gun and a knife with me. Should I have a spare mag, pepper spray, trauma kit, etc.? Yes, but I don't. There's just not enough real estate to store all of that, and girl jeans are stupid with stupid pockets. Most days, the gun and a folding knife are all I have with me.

But ... man, the advantage of being able to carry a full EDC load-out in a purse? Now that's worth thinking about. Since I don't carry a purse, I'm not in the habit of living out of one. It wouldn't be a huge stretch to just fill my purse with the trauma kit and pepper spray, and just leave enough room to throw my phone and car keys in. It might even make it more likely for me to have my gun with me for quick trips to the gas station or grocery store without having to put on my belt and holster and make a big production out of getting ready.

The beauty is that Vicki and Gloria allowed me to come to that conclusion all on my own. They didn't tell me I had to carry in a purse, they didn't tell me to never carry in a purse. They said, "it's an option, you need to know how to do it safely, and you need to make up your own mind about it" (obviously paraphrased).

By the end of the weekend, my head was swimming with new content and teaching tips, but my biggest take-away from the entire class was Vicki telling us:

Claim Your Own Magnificence!

I'm not a motto-type girl, I'm not one who needs daily mantras or any of that touchy-feely stuff, but I left feeling prepared and eager to claim my own magnificence.

 Thank you to Suzanne Freehauf of Ladyfire, LLC for the pictures.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Dave Spaulding's Kinetic Combat Pistol Class

In January, 2021, GunDude Mez and I packed up and headed down to Arizona to take Dave's Kinetic Combatives course. We met up with GunDude Drew, who flew in, and spent the weekend in absolute crap Arizona weather. I wish I was kidding about that.

Unlike my classes in 2020, which Drew kindly gifted to me, I actually paid for this class. In fact, I loved the Adaptive Pistol class so much, that as soon as I finished up, I started looking for open slots in Dave's 2021 schedule. I tried for the Kinetic class in Laramie, WY, but that already had a waiting list (and it's not even scheduled to run until September of this year), then I found a class in Arizona that still had space. My plan was to drive down and stay at my brother's place. Mez missed out on the Adaptive Pistol class, but I managed to talk him into joining me for Kinetic Pistol.

I was excited for January in Arizona; I thought I'd get out of the Colorado cold and enjoy a few days' worth of shooting. Winter chose to visit Arizona that week, and we were cold and wet for the entire class. Luckily, I am a Colorado girl, and while I bitched about shooting in shitty weather, I've done it plenty of times in the past.

The skills learned in this class were different from the Adaptive class, which makes sense, since Kinetic means movement. We did a lot of learning to move with and around our guns, how to divert our muzzles as we moved, actual pivots to check our 360. 

We started with dry runs of the drills, so that corrections could be made by the instructors, before we went live.

Draw, move, shoot. (Dry running it)

Dave broke everything down into bite-size pieces, so that we'd get a handle on one skill before we moved onto the next. I love learning in "baby steps" like that, and often teach my classes the same way. From moving and shooting, we started in with explosive movements. This is where I am lacking. Between the Adaptive course and the Kinetics course, I'd lost about 20# and was in much better shape. However, I'm still not fast. Some people are high speed, low drag. Me? I'm more no speed, all drag.

In fact, the feedback I got from Dave was that I could shoot okay, but man was I slow. Yep. Gotta work on that speed thing. The good news is, that I am getting better, more explosive off the line in any direction.

Despite the small setback I had in the Adaptive course with my holster breaking and having to change to an entirely different set up, I found the Kinetic course much more challenging. Certainly the caliber of student was much higher in the Kinetic course than in the Adaptive course, so I had to work harder to hold my own. I mean, when the class is headed up by Dave Spaulding, and assisted by Rich Nance, you're gonna attract a different caliber of student than a regular class. It was like the who's who of the shooting world for the weekend and I was just honored not to be run off the range.

With Dave retiring next year, I'm glad to have been able to take at least two of his courses. He's doing only two classes in 2022: one at his home range, and one in Colorado. I've got my money set aside ready to enroll the second that class opens up in June. It'll be worth every dime (and with the cost of ammo, it's really a big investment).

Gratuitous class photo dump:

The biggest surprise of the week came on the trip home. As we were headed up through Payson, Arizona we got snowed in!! 22" of heavy wet snow delayed our trip home by three days.

Our three day delay wasn't quite long enough. While I was in Arizona with Mez, Jay was at home suffering from Covid. His symptoms came on after we left for Arizona, and peaked the day I got home. If we'd been delayed just one more day, I would have missed his infectious period and been able to attend the class I had scheduled two weeks later.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Dark Angel Medical's Direct Action Response Training (D.A.R.T.)

Another class I was lucky enough to have gifted to me from GunDude Drew was Dark Angel's Direct Action Response Training. I had been coveting this class for years. You all know my passion for getting TQ training to the masses, but the class I teach (Advanced Bleeding Control through American Safety and Health Institute) is like kindergarten compared to the grad school-level education that Dark Angel offers.

The Dark Angel curriculum is fast-paced, but very well laid out and easy to follow. Though I've spent 30+ years working in the medical field, fifteen of that teaching in the medical field, I still learned a lot, and honed my skills. Back in 1989, I took my EMT-B course. It was a semester-long course, so about sixteen weeks, and I learned the basics of life-saving. In 16 hours with Dark Angel, I learned the same. Now, we didn't learn how to auscultate blood pressures in Dark Angel's course, but we learned the nitty-gritty of saving lives. I loved every damn second of class.

Our instructor, Ross, was funny and knowledgeable as he lead us through the basic anatomy and physiology of the body and its responses to trauma. Not one boring second, and everything he had to say was immediately applicable to the subject at hand. I had talked GunDude Mez into taking it with me, and as my rocket scientist friend, he has a basic knowledge of the body and how it functions, but not nearly the same background as I. Because the curriculum is laid out so well, and Ross was so informative, Mez was able to follow along pretty easily and pick up on some pretty tough topics.

This was not your basic Stop the Bleed class, it was, as I mentioned earlier, the grad school version that took us from the body's alarm responses to safety and situational awareness to assessment and treatment of various injuries including: bumps and bruises, fractures, blast injuries, gun shot wounds, blunt force trauma. Like I said, it was essentially a basic EMT** course taught in sixteen hours. 

We spent enough time doing hands-on activities that we all became comfortable with using the equipment provided. It's one thing to hear about how to use a piece of equipment, but completely different to actually use said equipment.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), I was having so much fun in class that I didn't think to take any pictures. I will say, though, if you're on the fence about dishing out the money to take this class, just do it. It's amazing and you'll learn so much. In fact, I believe I'll budget for it and take it a second or third time.

**My words, not theirs. Don't want anyone getting in trouble for false advertising.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Dave Spaulding's Adaptive Pistol Course

A huge thanks to GunDude Drew, who gifted this class to me. He hosted Dave and knew how much I wanted to do this training. I don't know that I've said much about GunDude Drew yet, but he's our "training whore", and the newest member the GunDiva/GunDude family.

In July, 2020, GunDudes Drew, Double Tap, and I spent the weekend training under Dave Spaulding. It had been a while since I took a shooting course. The last one I took was my POST Handgun Instructor's course in 2018. I wasn't sure what to expect, except that it would be "awesome" according to Drew, who has taken all of Spaulding's classes.

To my happy surprise, I was not the only female in class. There were three of us: one had trained under Spaulding before; one was game, but in way over her head; and I was new to Spaulding, but able to hold my own. Since Jay bought me my Mantis for my birthday, I'd done a bit of dry fire training with that prior to Dave's class; between training with the Mantis and all of the Dot Torture I shoot, I was fairly confident I could shoot decently.

This was an excellent class to help refine some things I learned long ago, and to brush up on skills I haven't used in a long time. It was also an excellent way to pressure test my gear. In fact, by noon the first day, I'd already broken one holster trying to rack my gun off it. I didn't have another holster that fit my 43x with the rail on it, so at lunch, I switched to my M&P 2.0 and my duty belt.

This drill, right here, killed my first holster.

At first, I was disappointed in having to change gear. I felt like my 43x and I were really clicking well and getting to know each other even better. I'd already been happy with how we got along, but spending the morning doing remediation drills (one and two handed), shooting strong and "stupid" handed, really reinforced that the 43x was the correct carry choice for me.

Like I said, changing to the M&P was a bit of a disappointment, but by the end of the day, I was happy I did, because I learned some things I could take back to my reserves. The most surprising thing I learned during our "Around the World" drill was that I couldn't shoot from the right fetal position while in my duty belt. The kydex holster (made by Long's Shadow, and an excellent holster) prevented me from being able to roll up onto my right hip. Now, someone with longer arms, who could leverage themselves up, or someone using a belt kydex holster instead of a big duty retention holster wouldn't have had the same problems.

Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of the fetal right position.

I liked the "Around the World" drill so much, that I took it back to my deputies and made them shoot it during our Q3 training. If you've not done the drill, it's shooting from various positions: standing, one knee kneeling, two knees kneeling, sitting, supine, fetal left, fetal right, sitting, two knees kneeling, one knee kneeling, standing. 

The other big, for me, thing I took away from class immediately improved my one-handed shooting. I felt like I was pretty good one-handed prior to class, just because I practiced so much, but by taking Dave's advice and moving my thumb up from the standard thumb-forward position was a game changer.

By angling my thumb upward, it forces the gun deeper into my hand, making it easier to manage recoil and get back on target more quickly.

Just like spending the morning shooting the 43x solidified that I'd chosen the correct EDC gun, being forced to finish out the remaining day and a half of the class shooting my M&P was good for me. I could always shoot it okay, but I wasn't in love with it. I'm still not deeply in love with it, but I can shoot it much more competently than I could before and I'm far more comfortable. Since I bought the M&P so that I would be working with the same gun as most of my reserves, I am thankful that I spent so much additional time with it. The last time I shot the M&P that much was during my POST Handgun Instructor's course.

I came away from the Adaptive Pistol class with a lot more knowledge and skill for my own use, and that I could pass on to both students and my reserve deputies.

Additionally, I came away from the class with a determination to continue taking classes. I read voraciously, but it's not the same as getting out there and rolling around in the dirt, putting what you learn into practice.

Gratuitous class pictures to follow:

2XTAP family picture with Dave: Drew, Ben, Dave, me, DoubleTap