Tap-Rack Tactical conducted a two-day pistol clinic at the Kent Police/Fire Training Center on 21 and 22 April 2014. It was a closed course consisting of 10 local and state law enforcement officers and one incessantly mouthy SOCOM veteran (yours truly).
“We cover all the basics, then focus on decreasing inefficiencies and increasing skill in all areas,” according to the course description. That is an understatement. Bill Blowers started the course with shooting fundamentals, but spent most of TD1 dismantling them in order to build a foundation for cleaner techniques.
Bill (a.k.a. 45&223 on Lightfighter) is Tap-Rack’s owner and lead instructor. He’s also a triple threat: a thinker, shooter and LEO with 19 years of SWAT duty under his belt. Just a few hours of instruction makes clear that Bill spends a lot of time (1) shooting, (2) meditating on shooting and (3) empirically testing what works and what doesn’t, from stance and grip to weapon accessories and conventional wisdom.
Efficiency is the name of the game, shaving tenths of a second for an experienced shooter or trimming hundredths of a second for a world-class trigger puller -- with 100 percent accuracy.
Weather was not an issue, thanks to Kent’s indoor 25-yard range (pictured right). The clean, well-maintained six-lane facility was good for our small class working at short distances.
Our hosts were very welcoming. And there were restaurants a few minutes away by car.
The big selling point for me was the air filtration system. As a two-time cancer survivor, I typically avoid courses at indoor ranges. But Kent has the best air filtration system I’ve ever seen, and I have no reservations about shooting there again.
Guns and Gear
Everyone was shooting a Glock or M&P. No surprise there.
Other shooters wore their duty soft armor in concealable carriers. I wore heavier Level IV stand-alone plates because I didn’t want any asterisks next to the records I would inevitably set during the course.*
I’ve been using the First Spear Strandhögg SAPI Cut Plate Carrier for years. I love everything about it -- except for the abysmal shoulder pads, which constantly roll out of place.
Kent’s smooth concrete floors were great, but by TD2, it paid to be wearing comfortable, broken-in footwear. Shooters mostly wore duty boots or running shoes.
Most important: Everyone was safe. There were SWAT cops and patrol officers.
Some guys were less experienced shooters, but Bill constantly encouraged each student to move at his own pace. In the end, everyone improved. Good shooters trimmed tenths of a second from their performance, and even the gunslingers shaved hundredths of a second here and there.
Plan of the Day
TD1: Bill’s obsession with self-testing, data and accuracy quickly became apparent after the standard course introduction, safety brief and diagnostic drill. A lot of guys can tell you how much weight they can bench press -- but they can’t tell you how fast they can hit a one-shot draw.
And if they can’t tell you that, they can’t track their improvement. So Bill timed most of our evolutions -- not to compare us to others in the class, but to give us a baseline for our training going forward.
We shot a lot of drills to improve our grip on the pistol. Proper grip (pictured left) will fix a lot of problems usually attributed to the gun and their accessories, according to Bill.
Contrary to popular belief, the purpose of a solid grip isn’t for recoil management; your arms do that. It’s to control muzzle flip.
Bill recommends the same stance for interviewing, fistfighting and gunfighting with pistol or carbine (pictured below right). It’s neither Weaver nor Isosceles, but it is all about being consistent, nimble and balanced, always ready to strike or defend.
“What is necessary on this gun?” Bill asked, holding El Diablo Dedo, his tricked-out Glock 34. “Whatever helps speed up my shots.”
Bill sweats the self-testing, data and accuracy because they select the techniques and gear he incorporates. He empirically confirmed that the RMR, magwell and other goodies on his pistol help him drop time.
The rest of the course was about fine tuning ways to put faster A-Zone hits on a target.
For instance, your one-shot draw must be faster than one second in order to outpace your opponent’s OODA loop. Time yourself to confirm your sub-second one-shot draw -- or change what you must to achieve it -- and constantly refine your technique to maintain it.
Ball and Dummy drills are bunk, according to Bill, because recoil anticipation is a good thing -- as long as the shooter times it after the bullet fires. That made a ton of sense to me; it’s the reason that I don’t train with a .22 conversion.
We spent the rest of the day hammering home these new lessons via one-handed firing, tactical reloads, speed reloads, six-shot strings and malfunction drills. Total accuracy was paramount in most of the drills. Even one miss was a disqualifier.
TD2: “It doesn’t get easier as you get older; it gets harder,” Bill said about gunfighting. “Always look for new ways to improve.”
He started TD2 with Jeff Cooper’s Combat Triad. Bill encouraged us to see more and see faster -- along with putting into practice the metric ton of information we’d taken in the day before. This really turned up the screws.
We shot a bunch of shifting gears drills, engaging different sized circles. These exercises forced shooters to adjust their splits based on target size. Bill threw in extra things to make the drills more challenging. Holds will be different at 10 yards and 25 yards, but ...
“Your grip is your grip,” Bill said. “The same grip will apply no matter the distance.”
Then we got into movement. Bill recommends walking as close to normally as possible while shooting because that’s what we have the most practice doing (pictured left). As for speed, he said, “move as fast as you can see, make decisions and shoot.”
Driving home the importance of self-testing, data and accuracy, we ran a movement drill twice, each for time and accuracy. The first iteration moved us diagonally from Point A to Point B while shooting six rounds into a stationary target.
The second time, we sprinted from A to B, and then engaged the same target with six rounds. Time and accuracy dictate which method of movement is more valuable.
Bill mentioned to me last weekend that he was going to share the Riddle of Steel with the class, but I had to leave early. So it seems I missed it, but no one ended up on the Tree of Woe (as far as I know).
This class helped me hone a modified isosceles stance for both carbine and pistol shooting. I started working on it following an LMS Defense carbine course last year, but I’ve now incorporated my hand-to-hand combat stance.
To control muzzle flip, I’m squeezing harder with the three lower fingers of my strong hand, as well as inwardly torqueing my support hand thumb. To eliminate muzzle dip, I’m tracing my index finger along the top of the trigger well during the entire pull.
The thumb torque also proved useful during one-handed shooting. Bill took slow motion video before and after I applied this technique. The results were astounding: I reduced atrocious muzzle rise to a barely perceptible hiccup.
Tiny tweaks. Huge results.
Bill also denounced the slow pace of one-handed shots during qualifications. Some agencies give shooters more time to take one-handed shots, but your adversary isn’t likely to extend the same courtesy.
Trying to off a bad guy one-handed is a strong indication that the nastiest day of your life just got a lot worse. Train for that worst-case scenario by shooting single-handed at the same pace you would with both hands.
Similar to tracing my finger along the top of my trigger well, I’ve begun indexing my elbows against my ribs during reloads. Bill advocated finding a frame of reference for as many things as possible in order to reduce variables, such as wavy elbows, which can adversely affect speed and accuracy.
“This course will teach you how to be more effective with your pistol during engagements and training,” according to Tap-Rack’s Web site. And the data-driven curriculum delivers by (1) demonstrating how to improve, (2) verifying that you’ve improved and (3) giving you the means to continue improving, whether it’s with a cool-daddy timer on the range or free shot timer app on your smartphone.
“The data doesn’t lie,” Bill said. “And the book is being written downrange [on your target].”
You should be an intermediate or advanced shooter before arriving for this course. There is far more information than a new shooter could effectively incorporate, evaluate and integrate. Having other clinics under your belt will help too, mainly because you’ll better understand the dogma that Bill questions.
Above all be flexible. If you’re set in your ways, this course isn’t for you.
But if you’re looking to streamline your tactical pistol techniques, especially for law enforcement applications, I cannot think of a better course.
Photos are available on Tap-Rack Tactical’s Facebook page.
*I didn’t set any records during the course.