Date: 26 JUNE 2020
Location: Richmond, CA
Instructor: James Yeom, lead instructor at T3 – USPSA Master-class and former SWAT officer.
Round Count: ~300 pistol
Pre-Requisites: Pistol Principles 1, passed MIL/LE qual within last 12 months, certificate of training for PP1 equivalent, or USPSA C Class/IDPA SS or higher classification
Objectives: Most of my handgun coursework in the past couple years has been repeat Pistol 1/Fundamentals (LMS Defense Pistol 1) or accuracy-focused (Presscheck No-Fail Pistol). For Pistol Principles 2, I wanted to focus on pushing my speed both in terms of manipulations (draw, driving the gun) and shooting (faster splits with acceptable hits) – this objective was definitely met throughout the course.
Class Details: 12 students, most shooting striker-fired handguns with a couple 1911s thrown in. Most were graduates of T3 Pros PP1 or equivalent shooting courses. Targets consisted of USPSA Metric targets, with B8 repair centers, 1-inch circles, and 6-inch circles used for certain drills. 8-inch steel targets were utilized for movement portions. Shooting took place from as close as 3 yards to as far as 25 yards.
Summary: I was invited to this class by a friend of mine who wanted to get some training in after taking some time off from shooting. Having been cold myself for a couple of months, I was a little hesitant to show up – especially since the course description seemed a little daunting in terms of pre-reqs and recommended skill level for students – but I decided to take the class to break the rust and see where I stood with my current level of handgun maintenance. PP2 was definitely challenging in all the right ways, with our instructor James providing easy-to-digest lecture and relevant courses of fire to validate what we had learned.
TD1: As every firearms class should, we started off with the safety brief/medical & evac plan then hopped into student and shooter introductions, with James providing a handy cheat sheet for us to answer. I really appreciated the fact that he took notes on all of our responses, and further continued those notes throughout the day by recording the students’ times and scores.
The live-fire portion began with a simple walk-back course of fire, with students shooting three rounds each from 5, 10, 15, 20, and 25 yards at the upper A-zone with no time limit. If a student missed all shots outside of the scoring zone at any yard line, they were asked to step off and this was recorded as a baseline for student ability.
The next course of fire was similar, but in reverse: from the 25 back to the 5, students were to fire two rounds from each distance with the goal being A-zone hits. James assessed the hits at each distance, and let our impacts tell us what we needed to do: namely, both hits stacked too close together meant that our marksmanship fundamentals were good and we should be pushing our speed instead. I learned that I could get away with being fast at farther distances than I originally thought.
After this initial assessment we hit the ground running, mostly working from 15 yards and in, on different paper targets meant to isolate specific shooting mechanics. These included target transitions, quicker follow up shots, acceptable sight picture at varying distances, etc. After letting students get used to the concepts via live fire warmups, James had us run a variety of drills to test those concepts.
Throughout each string of fire, James would spend time with each student in order to provide personal guidance and remind us of some of the key concepts learned during class – namely, to push ourselves out of our comfort zone and to break our preconceived notion of what “good hits” were in the name of balancing speed and accuracy. As a final validation before lunch, we all shot the Advanced Super Test for score. This course of fire required proper application of the mechanics we had worked on in the morning in order to get a passing score.
The last part of the day dealt with a small classroom block on the proper techniques for shooting on the move, followed by live fire while advancing on, and while moving laterally, to the targets. The final course of fire was a single-elimination competition involving lateral movement and multiple-target engagement on steel targets.
After that, we brassed the range, broke down targets, and got together for a short AAR and James handed out certs, along with a “goodest shooter award” that came with a stocked IFAK as a prize.
Key Takeaways: My biggest takeaway from this class was “throttle control” and its proper application dependent on the distance to – and difficulty of – the target. Getting too sucked into “tactical” marksmanship has led to some less-than-stellar times at matches, and a lot of the tips and tricks that James passed on has definitely led to a lightbulb moment for me.
Equipment wise, the Glock 34/RMR combo continues to allow me to be an absolute asshole about dry practice (aka, not do it). This is not an endorsement of skipping out on your dry fire, but more of a testament to how the equipment you choose can definitely be a factor in your shooting performance. I was able to pull off a 280/300 on the Advanced Super Test and win the final competition, both without having touched a handgun in months – I attribute this to both the shootability of the G34 and the ease of use of the RMR.
Closing Thoughts: I got a ton of Frank Proctor-style vibes from T3 Pro’s coursework/James’ teaching style, and it was a great change of pace from the pistol instruction I’ve had recently. This kind of class is something that everyone should take part in, regardless of intended application. James reiterated that being able to shoot fast and accurately was a net positive for both competition and defensive purposes, and brought a performance-focused mindset to his shooting methodology.
While I’m still a fan of taking a shitload of Pistol 1s and refining through practice, competition and more accuracy-based coursework, I’ve been sorely lacking in the “let it do” side of the house and it was cool to see what I could pull off in that sweet gray zone between no-fail accuracy and letting the wheels fall off.
The tuition spent was well worth it, and I have since taken PP1 multiple times in the past year – James is a great instructor and you can expect an AAR for that course as well.