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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This past weekend (2/3/4 March 07) I took John Farnam's Advanced Defensive Handgun Course (defense-training.com) in Victoria Texas. I had originally signed up to do it last October, but was horrendously sick on the designated weekend. This time I made it, altho I picked up a head cold at the course - it was pretty cool and dang windy all weekend.

I wrote about last year's basic course here:

http://handgunsandammo.proboards36.com/index.cgi?action=display&board=tactics&thread=1141714697&page=1

This year's course covered the same basic skills, but at a faster pace. It also added some rifle and shotgun familiarization at the end of the course, and I tried out my SKS and my 870 shotgun. Fired about 600 pistol rounds, about 30 rifle rounds, two buckshot rounds and a slug.

We had 11 students in the class, including two local law enforcement officers. Dr. Dennis Tobin, who organizes this training weekend, collects some donations from various people and then offers the Victoria PD and the County Sheriff's department one slot each for one of their officers. The PD guy was a patrol sergeant, and I believe the Sheriff's deputy was also a first line supervisor. We had various other people of various ages and background, including several former/retired military. Everybody, including the cops, agreed we got more out of this course than all the previous training our our respective military or police organizations had ever provided us.

On Friday night, John talked to both basic and advanced students on self-defense issues - what makes a good self-defence pistol, use of pepperspray, blades, avoiding trouble in the first place, using non-lethal methods to get out of menacing but not yet threat-to-life-or-limb situations, legal considerations, how to interact with the police after defending your self, escalation of force, mental preparation/attitude, and so forth. He reiterates these at appropriate points in the shooting part of the program on Saturday and Sunday. Everyone introduced themselves, their backgrounds, kind of pistol etc.

He emphasizes "staying in the fight" until you are absolutely out of danger rather than looking for "excuses to lose." If one thing does not work, immediately go to another. If your gun malfunctions, fix it and get back in the fight, or ditch it and go to your back up. If someone grabs you gun, use your blade or back up to get them off of you. Keep fighting, look for ways to win. I don't do justice to his presentation, but I hope you get the idea. He hammers on this throughout each exercise.


Saturday started off with review of fundamentals of administrative and tactical gun handling - drawing, loading, chamber-check, unloading, tactical and military reloading, malfunction drills, and trigger control. Administrative handling is done standing still, but all tactical non-shooting tasks are done while moving and scanning. The methods he teaches can be done without needing to see the gun -- head is supposed to be up and checking for threat 360 degrees.

We did the first couple reviews with unloaded guns, but after that, we went with a hot range. Prior to leaving the line after a shooting exercise, we were to ensure we had a bullet in the chamber; then after holstering, it was up to us to top off magazines as needed and be ready for the next round. John emphasizes being and independent operator - keep yourself aware and ready, don't depend on someone to tell you when to reload, etc. They won't be there when you use a gun for real. So we kept guns loaded and ready in the holster, during breaks and lunch and dinner, and pretty much all the time. If we needed to unholster for administrative purposes, e.g. to do a chamber check or switch out the ammo that had been chambered, we notified an instructor, then went to the berm, faced away from the group, and did whatever was necessary.

As a part of the doctrine of escalating force, we covered (via role-playing) techniques on how to handle where we think we are being set up for an attack/mugging or at least an aggressive panhandling.

John emphasizes precise shooting with 100% accuracy. As he says, if you don't hit what you want to hit, then by definition you hit something you didn't want to hit. On the range that is only a dirt berm, but in a real self-defense situation it is likely to be someone or something that didn't need to be shot. For shooting drills we primarily used static and rotating steel targets, but we did use some IPSC type humanoid targets for practicing what he calls the zipper technique - four shots starting centered just above the beltbuckle and ending in the upper chest, with the objective being to strike the major north-south blood vessels, and if enough penetration, the spine. We also practiced close-in brain-stem shots -- two shots to the nose (assuming your opponent is facing you head on).

John emphasizes lots of movement and looking around for more than just the threat in front of you. Move (with trigger finger solidly in the register position) laterally off the line of force as you draw and assess. If needed, shoot four times (zipper), then move and assess again. If needed, shoot four more, then move. If out of ammo, move and assess while reloading, eyes on threat; when loaded up, if necessary stop and shoot, then resume moving and assessing. Same with malfunctions. John notes that four shots is an arbitrary number that he picked as a compromise between putting enough rounds on target to do the job, but not standing in one place too long. Somebody on this board (Higginbotham?) advocates 5 shots then move. Same idea, I think. After the shooting drill was done, we were NOT to holster until John pronounced the drill over -- this was to prevent us from learning to automatically holstering after shooting without verifying that all the threats have really gone away. Instead we maintained ready position with our handgun, moving and scanning for more threats (and if necessary we reloaded and chambered a round). When John was satisfied that everyone was finished, he would usually say something like - "Ok, now you hear sirens coming, you don't see any more threats, holster your pistols."

One shooting drill involved moving laterally along a line of about 15 steel plates of various sizes, stopping to put one shot in each one, then move to the next. (Shooting distance was about 10 meters, I think). Of course you have to look around and scan for threats between shots; if reload or malfunction drill is needed, move scan/reload/fix, get back into the fight. Then shoot several plates from one spot (our choice of how many), then move on. Then he added using the primary gun for the first 14 or so plates, then switch to back up gun for the last one. Another variation of this had us exhausting all ammo in our primary, backup, and then switching to blade.

Some plates were small fixed humanoid outlines (I would guess about 18 inches tall by 12 inches wide at most); others were "rotators" (http://www.safedirection.com/targets/rotator/rotator.htm) - two approx 6x6 -inch square plates mounted at opposite ends of an arm that rotated front to rear. The link I provided shows one in action. We did several drills involving getting the dang thing to rotate all the way around. It emphasized precise shot placement and looking for the window of opportunity to shoot. And of course you move and scan, move while drawing, shoot four, move and scan, shoot four, etc. I had some trouble with this as I was shooting CCI Blazer 9mm 115grain FMJ target ammo - didn't have enough zip to reliably move the plates far enough to rotate. When we did a proficiency test involving the rotators, I switched to Win Ranger 127 +P+. That did the trick.

John teaches administrative and tactical gun handling techniques that work with any semi-auto. For example, racking the slide is always done (loading, unloading, malfunction drill, etc) with support hand over the top of the rear of the slide, yanking to the rear, and circling the hand back underneath to the shooting grip. Slide release is not used, so you don't have to go looking for it if you have to use an unfamiliar handgun.

The common procedures got emphasized when we did the "battlefield pickup" drill. We put our loaded handguns in a row on a couple tables. First we went down the line firing one round from each gun (and of course hitting the steel plate), then the guns were rigged for various malfunctions and running out of ammo scenarios, and we did it again (moving,of course, while executing reloading and malfunction drills). The techniques he taught applied to each gun the same way. Of course we had to figure out some safety levers and decocking levers along the way, but that was part of the drill. About this time my Hi Power decided it had gotten dirty enough, and the safety lever was getting difficult to manipulate. No sympathy to the other students from John: "Don't stand there, get it running! Get back in the fight!, do something!"

I was interested to realize after the drill that I had not noticed any difference between shooting the 9mm, the .45 ACP, or the .357 Sig. Never noticed recoil or noise or whatever. I was too busy focusing on the front sight and the target. And I did hit every time.

Dr Tobin arranged for supper to be brought to the range (it was part of the fee we paid), we ate, then conducted lowlight/night shooting drills using only ambient light, then our flashlights, then road flares. Apparently we were doing this during the lunar eclipse on Saturday night, it was darn dark when we did the drills, but right afterwards the moon suddenly popped out and it seemed like daylight.

And that was the end of Saturday's training.

Next morning, we worked on malfunction drills, reloading, precision shooting, then did two tests, the basic and the advanced. In the basic test, someone else loads your magazine with four live rounds and one dummy in either position 2,3, or 4. Start the test in interview stance, at first signal start moving, must look around 360 degrees at least once, at second signal move and draw, hit the steel plate (one end of the rotator, so about 6 inch square) 7 meters away five times - but of course there is a dummy round in there, so execute a malfunction drill while moving, fire until empty, reload while moving and scanning, then hit two more times, and do it all in 22 seconds with no hits and no procedural errors (e.g. failing to move, failing to scan, trigger finger out of position, pointing gun at support hand during the draw, etc). Simple enough, but takes some concentration to put it all together.

Advanced test was simpler - spin the rotator within 17 seconds. Of course you had to start same way as before, move while drawing, shoot max four and move, execute any malfunction drills or reloads required. Again, test was very simple, but you cannot miss and get the dang thing to rotate in time. I passed on second try - I flubbed one shot on my first attempt and couldn't recover in time.

After that, rifle drills. He walked us thru key points of field stripping and maintaining the Stoner System (AR-15/M-16), which is what most students had, AK-47, (we had one), M-1A, and my SKS. Actually I got to demo the field stripping part of that.

Similar philosophy to handguns - rifles always loaded with a round in the chamber. Slings required. Muzzle always down except when firing - lots of emphasis on this, and of course, finger in register. Practice going from slung position to firing position (while moving), switch shoulders on the move, reloading while moving, transition from rifle to handgun while moving, transition back to rifle from handgun while moving.

One interest drill - we stood in a line, fired one shot, safed rifle, and handed it to person on our left. Kept doing this until everyone got their own rifle back. So I got to shoot several variants and models of the AR-15, including a 14-inch (I think) barreled one from the police department, as well as several kinds of iron and optical sights. Glad to say I nailed the target with each one. It was the static steel target at only 50 meters, but still I was happy.

Did a shoot-move drill - go from slung position to shooting while moving to cover (big post holding up the shelter roof), two shots strong side, move to next cover/switch shoulders, engage two more targets, move/switch back to strong side, engage again, move engage again - at this point someone would remove magazine from the AR-15/M-1A/AK-47s (I conveniently ran out of ammo at this point with my SKS since I had a stoppage earlier that caused me to lose a round racking the bolt). Fire the shot in the chamber, transition to handgun while moving), HIT target with two pistol rounds, holster and transition back to rifle while moving, reload rifle while moving, engage final target with two rounds. I learned alot about how I want to set up my SKS with a sling. That Chinese issue strap is going away! We had our only ND during this drill - one guy inadvertently cranked off a round as he was going from slung to firing position -- but since he had the muzzle pointed at the ground, as instructed, no actual harm done.

Worked on shotgun with sling next, practiced loading, unloading, putting shotgun in transportation/carry/firing modes, swapping in a slug round. Move/shoot drill - move to cover while racking slide and going to firing position, two rounds of buckshot on a 20 meter target, transition to slug round, hit 50 meter target, reload shotgun, then at exercise halt, transition tocarry mode.

And that was the end of Sunday's training.

There is a whole lot more to this, John spends a good deal of time emphasizing the whys and hows of his methods, and there are many key details to his techniques I have not covered. I do hope you get the flavor of this course --it is in-depth, lots of purposeful shooting, lots of emphasis on learning reliable procedures to handle guns safely while "being dangerous" -- to the bad guy and no one else. I think it is an excellent bargain in defense training.

Hope someone finds this review useful. You will find the training itself much more useful!

elb
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Oh, and we had one KaBoom during the class. We assume it was a case rupture in a 1911, but the barrel & slide were jammed too tight to move. The magazine body remained in the gun, but the magazine floor plate and all the rounds were blown out the bottom (I later found one of the rounds on the ground, and the bullet was jammed almost completely inside the brass case). The grips shattered. The shooter got powder marks on his hands, and a cut lip, we assume from a flying piece of the grip. His back up gun was also a 1911, so he just brought it around to the primary holster and marched on.

elb
 

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Mr. ELB,

I does sound like very useful training. Thanks for taking the time to explain it in such detail. It does sound like you got more than your money's worth, regardless of what it cost you.

Beyond the hands on, I think a major benefit of any training at this level is the mental confidence it gives you too. Thanks again sir for an excellent write up.

twoguns
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks for the kind words, pistolero and twoguns. I try to write down the kind of stuff I would want to know about a defense course before I invest $$ in it. And yes, the mental confidence is an important and worthwhile part of the training.

I may jot a few more notes here from time to time - I am trying to remember everything that was crammed into my head this weekend, and sometimes helps to write it out. As long as I am at it, might as well put it out where others can see it too, maybe someone will get something out of it.


One thought that strayed in while writing this - John's wife Vickie is also an instructor, generally handles the basic classes. Just prior to coming to Victoria, she instructed about 40 marines at Quantico, and John was in Africa instructing some South African Scorpions - not the 8 legged critters, but SA's version of the FBI.

Vickie told me that someone from the US Army has now called her for a class. As well as instructing us guys, she's put some thought and effort into how to instruct women in shooting - women are different ( :) ), and process the info differently. She said some years back some LEO instructors came to her for help, because they knew they were not getting across to their (then fairly new) female officers. She has written a couple training guides, one for instructors of female shooters, and one for the female shooter, that might be handy if you have a female shooter in your life. (altho my advice is if it is anyone close,wife/girlfriend, you're both better off finding someone else to do the instructing!).

I think they both do an outstanding job, and would like others to consider them for training.

elb
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
As I noted above, I will update my own thread as I think of things from the shooting class that were important to me. I hope they of of some use to others as well. I will post items about equipment in the appropriate forum -- Ammunition or Hi Power or whatever -- and update this thread with a link to it.

My first additional post is on my holster - C-TAC for my 9mm Hi Power. Basically, worked great. The post (an update to my earlier description of the holster) is here:

http://handgunsandammo.proboards36.com/index.cgi?action=display&board=leather&thread=1156135405&page=1

elb
 

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Your review reminds me muchly of my experience with Clint Smith at Thunder Ranch Texas. I am a Farnham fan and follow his quips and quotes on the web. I used to own his books until they went under in Hurricane Gaston. I really recommend professional training even if you are military/LEO trained and experienced.
 

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ELB, thanks for the links to both course reviews. This is exactly the type of training I hope to pursue in the future. I have much fundamental shooting ahead. When I feel ready for the next step I'll be sure to consider their classes.
 
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