AAR Tap-Rack Tactical’s Tactical Pistol Course, Kent, Wash. 21-22 April 2014

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.

 

Bill times two shooters performing a modified Bill Drill.WX

 

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.

 

Holsters were predominately Safariland on patrol belts, but there were others. My Raven Concealment Systems kit ran like a champ, as always.

 

Class Mix

 

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.

 

Bill demonstrates his preferred grip strength: He squeezes until his hands shake, and then backs off a little.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.

 

Bill demonstrates a stance that works for interviewing, fistfighting and gunfighting.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.”

 

Bill advocates walking as close to normally as possible while shooting.Paying homage to the classics, we also shot a modified Bill Drill (two shots each on three targets) and El Presidente. Those are always fun.

 

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).

 

Lessons Learned

 

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.

 

Teacup drills helped shooters refine both their one- and two-handed grips.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].”

 

Conclusion

 

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.

Good against remotes is one thing. Good against a living? That's something else.

Original Post

Great AAR Bug Stomper. A good group of shooters let's the class get more time shooting and also allows us to explore and discuss the topic at hand at a much higher level. This was a good class that was able to absorb, think through, and come to their own conclusions about some of the dogma in the shooting industry. (I hope)

 

Injuries were all minor, several slide bites, several guys stapled themselves while hanging targets (Self correcting, usually only happens once) and one guy tore his hand open doing one handed malfunction clearance. He had a knife in his pocket and ran his hand down the pocket clip creating a large, but shallow, furrow in the skin. Half the class left with bleeding hands which is one way that I determine success, this was a successful class.

 

The guns all ran fine, one guy lost a front sight off a Glock and it was quickly fixed. Several guys had override issues on their slide stops as they worked on refining grip. Others forced slide stops up causing slides to lock open under recoil. The grip issues were worked out by all during the course and everyone was able to find the balance of managing muzzle flip without affecting controls. One M&P had a fail to eject that jammed up slide movement. We got it open but it refused to extract, case rim and extractor both looked fine, but he had to pull out and beat it out with a rod. Didn't happen again.  

 

The class expended close to 1000 quality rounds, each drill emphasizing a specific skill set or combinations of skill sets. The main SPO for this class is to be able to track your own performance, tools to do that, and then improvement.

 

In addition to the training gig, I am a full time cop that runs a budget and I am a training junkie that pays my own way fairly frequently. Because of those perspectives, I do everything I can to make sure students don't leave feeling like I stole their money. Based on feedback from this course, it sounds like I was succesful in that endeavor.

 

If anyone has questions, please ask.

 

Bill

 

 

Originally Posted by 45&223:

The class expended close to 1000 quality rounds, each drill emphasizing a specific skill set or combinations of skill sets. The main SPO for this class is to be able to track your own performance, tools to do that, and then improvement.

 

Excellent point, Bill. This is a high-round-count course, but I felt that every shot I fired had significant training value attached to it.

 

  On 09/14-15 I attended the Tap-Rack Tactical tactical pistol class, hosted at the Kent PD range.  I recalled reading Bug Stomper’s eval last year and instead of retreading the same info, thought I would update and add to it.

  I told Bill that part of the reason I wanted to take his class was because my “skills had slipped.”   This isn’t truly correct as I do shoot well according to my dept’s standards, but felt that my skills had not progressed much in the past few years and I wanted a good, current challenge of them.

 

  I got that and more.   There is a great deal of information presented, so my apologies to Bill if I don’t cover some of the details.   

  The course covered much the same schedule as Bug Stomper laid out.  We spent a lot of time using the shot timer to measure ourselves with some standards.  How long to get the gun from the holster and fire 1 shot?  How long does just the reload between shots take?  How long to draw, shoot 1, reload and shoot 2?  Etc.  These standards are for the use of each student as a base-line.  There were times for these drills that I had in my head, but it’s actually pretty cool to see the numbers. 

 

  Bill has a great eye for picking out details and knowing how to fix problems.  My slide was both locking back when I didn’t want it to as well as not locking back when I needed it to.  Check the position of my thumbs and adjust accordingly.  Use both eyes when shooting.   Duh.  I had thought I was doing this, but since I’m right handed and left eye dominant, my right eye was closing.  This isn’t an issue for me with an AR, but it wasn’t something I was even aware of with the pistol.  We spent some time finding the best spot of where to place your finger on the trigger.  Again, since I have been shooting well, I never thought to make any adjustments.  I found that a little less finger for me  makes for better accuracy. 

 

  I turned 50 years old a few months ago and have been taking every chance I get to let other know, yeah colonoscopy!

  By lunch on day 2, my hands were smoked enough that I was barely getting 10-12 rounds in my 15 round mags.  They weren’t tired or sore from actually shooting, just from the sheer amount of gun handling and reloading that is required.  Pretty sure I shot close to 1200 rounds. 

 

  That afternoon, we spent some time doing “changing gears” drills.  These are meant to not only measure accuracy, but to make you think and work though changing targets, reloads, etc.  They make you use all of the skills that Bill has covered in the class.

 Two drills that I very much liked and am going to steal, were an El Prez with staggered and offset targets and the dice drill.  I don’t recall if that one has its own name.  You start with four targets numbered 1-4 from left to right. The two left targets are also targets 5-6.

  On the beep of the timer, you toss a large dice and draw from the holster.  You then start shooting at the target that corresponds with the number that you rolled.  Each numbered target gets the corresponding number of rounds.  Target 2-2 rounds, target 3-3rounds, etc. until you’ve gone through all six targets.  A fun and good drill that measures a variety of skills and tactics.  Also a great way to have some friendly competition.  Misses that are outside the rings are penalties. 

 

  There are two skills that Bill taught that I’d like to mention.  The first is during failure to fire, the common method to get your gun running is to tap the mag, then rack the slide and access or shoot as needed.  Bill suggests not doing the tap, as your mag would have unseated or fallen out after the first or second round, not the 5th or 10th, etc.  I liked this a lot as it saves time.  It is something that I will probably mention to my LE students, but not something that we’ll dwell on. 

  The other skill is what to do with a partial magazine during a tactical reload.  I take my full mag from the first pouch to do both my speed and tactical reloads. During the tactical, I then bump mag #2 to the first pouch and put the partial in the second pouch. This way, I keep my hand movements the same for both reloads initially.

  Bill teaches to index your hand on mag 1, then move it back to mag 2 and use that one for the tactical reload, thereby creating a spot for the partial, eliminating a step.  I try to teach things simple and keep movements as similar as possible regardless of the situation.  The bigger picture here however, is that we stop teaching LE to put partials in a pocket, down the shirt or tucked in the belt. 

 

  For a variety of reasons, I have not been able to take a class like this as a student for a very long time.  I really wanted to both see where my skills are according to what is being taught in 2015 and to see how my dept’s training program both stacks up and to see what we can use ourselves that isn’t in the program.    As an LE instructor, it is vital to put yourself out there as a student and allow yourself to be humbled just a bit.  Learning has occurred. 

 

A couple of pics of me from Tap-Rack's FB page. 

My gear included my standard duty belt and vest, Dept. issue G22 with a very old SF X200/DG switch which died in class.  My boots are the Belleville Range Runners which are awesome when moving, not so much on concrete. I changed to my much softer Salomon Mids for day 2. 

 

TacRackPistol0915

TacRackPistol0915a

Joined 12/2/02          Location: Puyallup, WA

www.Rich275DESIGNS.com

"malo periculosam libertatem quam quietam servitutem"

Thomas Jefferson 1787

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Changing gears drills are meant to change the cadence of shots due to accuracy standard and distance to target. A 6" box at five yards can be hammered pretty quickly, not so quick at 25 yards. So changing distance is one way to force shooters to change gears. 

 

Using the the large dice to start the drill is something I pulled from Bob Vogel. i change the target array to force more thinking and I also add no-shoot targets in front. The no shoots require guys to move to engage the targets. Just one more piece, while they think, shoot and move. 

 

If anyone has questions about the course, please ask.

 

Bill

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