The Urban Pistol class took place in a beautiful indoor range at the Police Academy, where a First Step Pistol class was just finishing up. I was happy to see that there were nine women and only two men in that class! The range itself is very clean, pristine I would even say based on where I usually shoot. It has a state of the art air filtration system and the backstop is a waterfall that collects the lead and washes it away leaving very little trace of it in the air. It is almost cavernous inside, without ports and lots of room for all the movement exercises used in these classes and wide enough to have a car driven in for advanced classes that include shooting from an automobile.
While we waited for the FSP class to end, we geared up in our holsters and magazine pouches. An RSO verified that our guns were empty and we holstered them. They were to remain holstered for the rest of the day until verified they were empty at the end of the day and cased up. This was a very STRICT rule and anyone who violated it would risk being thrown out immediately from the class. I chose to use the leg holster. I have become pretty comfortable drawing from it and reaching down instead of up to find the pistol. We were instructed to load three magazines with ten rounds each to start.
When everyone was ready we proceeded to the three yard line. There were fourteen people in this class — RSOs were stationed behind us to help with the drills. We started with standard drills of shooting at numbered circles on the target. Each three inch circle represented an area of the body like the head in which a direct shot would take the threat down. Magazine changes were considered “emergency” at this point which basically means you’re out of ammo. When empty, the shooter drops the magazine to the floor and proceeds to load a new one. This was kind of fun. The instructor would call out: “One, twelve, three, ten. Two shots to each! Threat!” (Which was the go signal.) This would continue until all the magazines were empty. When done the shooter follows through by remaining in a ready position, making sure there are no further magazines at her disposal, checking to the left and right for further threats, and holstering the gun when ready. Things heated up quickly though and the drills included tactical magazine changes (re-holster of magazines that might be used later in a firefight), shooting and magazine changes using the strong hand only (as if injured — we held them behind our backs) and then using the non dominant hand only. The goal here is survival. The idea was to simulate real life, when if injured in a firefight you have to keep fighting. Failure is not an option, unless you have a death wish. The goal is to try and practice the impracticable scenarios and to be prepared as best one can. Statistically, only fifty percent of people survive their first firefight. If you are involved in as many as four, that number goes up to 90 percent.
If you haven’t tried these drills before they can be quite challenging the first time around. With a line of shooters, an RSO screaming in your ear to rattle you, and remembering to keep everything safe and accurate and moving — well, it can be overwhelming at first. The one handed drills with the strong hand included racking the slide of my Glock on my holster — something I have never done before. I had to find that sweet spot that would allow me to rack the slide hard and not get little fuzzy things all over my sights, because my holster has a soft lining. It is to be expected that your gear will be tested in this class.
If something isn’t going to work when pushed to extremes then this is the time and place to find out. Because the equipment will take a beating, the instructor recommended having separate gear to use for training only. Magazines for example will be dropped on the floor fifty times during one class alone and you never want something to malfunction at a critical moment.
The non dominant handed drills were very tricky. It included dropping the magazine with my left hand while holding the gun in my left hand by pulling my trigger finger out of the trigger guard and towards the magazine release… I could only do this about twenty percent of the time. So I had to improvise and release the magazine while holding the gun upside down between my knees and edge it out and toss it away — and then reloading in this position and racking the slide on my magazine holster. This drill is one of the most dangerous of the day as it is the most foreign to the shooters. Whew! So much to take in!
I was having a good time, but really just taking it all in and enjoying learning the different techniques for magazine changes. I found I am a little more trigger happy than I thought and I have to learn to have a better feel for my “work zone”. This involves holding the gun out at an angle in front of me but a little closer to my body during the magazine changes. This will make the changes faster, more accurate and less work for me. As the drills went on, Rob, one of the RSOs reminded me (and everyone else around me) that every shot is important by screaming it at us. I admit I wasn’t really focused on where my shots were going. It’s been awhile since I got to fire off this much ammo at one time. I was concentrating more on learning the new skills, which should be combined with accurate shot placement, but I admit I was kind of laid back about it. I am the mom of several teenagers, who spend half their lives bothering me about something or other. I have to admit that a couple of times when Rob was screaming at us, instead of feeling rattled, I felt like simply turning around to tell him to stop bothering me and go to his room and to come out when he had an attitude adjustment.
I quickly learned what about my gear was working and what was not. I really do like the drop leg holster, but the magazine pouch was just digging into my waist and pounding my hip every time I used it (yep days later I am still all black and blue and beat up). And since I mostly wear skirts, I only own two pairs of pants. I was wearing my very comfortable NYDJeans that day which have really tiny pockets. In fact my Spyderco knife does not stay in the pockets, even when clipped on it falls out every time I bend down. When the instructor said to fill your pockets with forty rounds… well um, my pockets aren’t deep enough to hold forty rounds. They were basically covered by the holster on one side and the magazine pouch on the other anyway and I don’t have much room to work with on my waist in the first place. So maybe for next time, I’ll invest in tactical pants, with big pockets. I also had to be creative with finding a spot for that third magazine — back pocket.
We moved on to the seven yard line and turning drills — to the left, right and back to front, learning why each drill was important, how to perform it safely and between each drill, taking time to re-load our magazines. Finally we had a five minute break. We were reminded first that guns must be holstered AT ALL TIMES until the class ends. But were allowed to go use the restrooms, have a bite to eat and relax. Just saying, but it isn’t easy to use the ladies restroom with a leg holster attached to you holding a decent sized Glock 19. For once I was glad that I was the only woman in the class and had the bathroom to myself.
When we returned to the range it was time for the moving drills. We were instructed to use deliberate steps — because “this ain’t dance class.” We lined up with someone behind us holding our waists at the belt loops to make sure no one got ahead of the line and ended up in front of a row of shooters. The instructions were four paces forward and then to shoot on the whistle blow, repeated twice forward and backwards with emergency magazine changes as necessary along the way. We moved on to running drills — with only four shooters at a time. Running forward, shooting, running to the right and then left, etc., as called out by the instructor. The floor at this point was just littered with brass. But, this class is about real life and we don’t get to choose the terrain so no complaining, but I admit I was a little nervous. Looked pretty slippery to me and after the instructor explained how falling was something that would not be good and was not going to happen… even if in real life you fall and continue shooting from the ground until you can get up…
Well, surprise surprise I did slip and I knew my gun was not pointed down in a safe direction for at least a few seconds, but I did my best to right myself with help from an RSO nearby and kept on going. Although it was a nerve wracking two seconds for me, everyone had an RSO standing directly behind them at all times and there was no doubt in my mind that Jimmy would catch me if necessary. The day was long and the antibiotics were taking their toll as well. It sort of reminded me of being in first grade and having my hat fall off in the school play, we were instructed to keep singing because the show must go on! In adult language: “Keep going! Improvise! Make it work!” Maybe that’s why I didn’t feel too badly afterwards.
The final exercises were shooting from cover and learning how to clear a room from the hallway. For the shooting from cover we each ran up to a door and got to shoot from behind it and then ran to a garbage can closer to the targets to shoot from a kneeling position. I personally would have liked to try these drills at a slower pace first to understand what exactly I was looking at from each vantage point before shooting and then trying it at a faster pace. I think I would have gotten more out of it that way. But none the less — this is still something you just don’t get to do every day.
All in all I had a fantastically good time. Anytime I get to spend that much time at the range and fire off that many rounds in a class environment — it has to be fun. I did feel like I needed to decompress and relax a bit before I jumped in my car and headed home to help with dinner and homework though. All kidding aside, the guys at Gun for Hire run a fantastic, professional program. I have never been disappointed in a class I have taken there.
Next time I take a class like this – definitely bigger pockets and a Hogue slip on pistol grip for my Glock. It will be nice to lose the Michael Jackson glove look — although it did serve me well. I might even go with a pink grip for Urban Pistol 2 – to get in touch with the more pink side of my personality. A long overdue thank you is in order for Jimmy G at Gun for Hire for answering all my many questions — and to please forgive me in advance for violating one of my own rules if I show up next time with the pink grip on my gun.