This weekend, we conducted our two day General Defensive Handgun course. The purpose of this course is to provide students with the necessary foundation to be successful in a violent lethal force confrontation. Throughout the course we emphasize the point that a superior combat mindset is most important for a successful outcome.

To this end, GDH is not just a repackaged LE or Military combat arms course. It is built around the Priorities of Survival (Mental Conditioning, Tactics, Skill, and Equipment). While there is a ton of shooting and skill development, we spend a considerable amount of time discussing mindset, tactics, legalities, wound ballistics and scenarios in an effort to sharpen the mind and properly prepare for the stress of a violent lethal force confrontation. Our desire is to provide students with the complete package, not only physical skill development.

This course was at the new West Coast Armory Range in Bellevue, WA. This is an outstanding facility. They have an excellent range and classroom. The range staff is helpful and courteous. West Coast is a great facility to train at, and we are pleased to be partnering with them. There were 16 students in the course. Most were regular folks. However, there was one paramedic/fire/SWAT guy who had plenty of helpful and pertinent information to add to the course, and two squared away and motivated guys who will soon be proudly serving our country as officers in the military.

As in many of our general level courses, equipment was problematic. Many of the students found that they were fighting their gear rather than focusing their energy on the learning process. Equipment selection should be based on your tactics and your skills. The struggle for the new gun fighter is that they have no tactics and skills to use for evaluating equipment. The common advice of “buy the gun that feels good” does not work very well when you don’t know how to grip the gun properly and you don’t know how a gun should feel.

For some reason, the Springfield XD was very popular in this course. There were 6 or 7 of them in the class. And as expected, there were problems. From my perspective, a handgun that cannot get through 500 rounds in a two day period without a stoppage does not meet the reliability threshold for a combat handgun. The most common stoppage came from a spent shell failing to eject from the gun. Typically this resulted is a fairly involved malfunction that a tap and rack did not fix. Additionally, the useless grip safety made locking the slide to the rear difficult for some. There was one HK P7. While the P7 is very accurate, feels nice in the hand, and conceals very easily as a single stack, many operators find that the peculiar controls of the gun make gun-handling difficult. The P7 is probably best used as a collector’s gun, not a serious fighting gun (again skill drives the training, not equipment). We also had a FN 5.7 in the course. This was my first experience with one. The gun seemed to be reliable, but it is huge (certainly not appropriate for private citizen concealed carry). While it is great that manufacturers are trying new ideas, there is little use for a handgun such as this. I fail to see any benefits to the handgun with regard to terminal ballistics or anything else. Also popular were subcompacts. Students quickly figured out that subcompact guns might be great for deep concealment, but they are terrible for most formal firearms training as your typical concealed carry gun.

Overall, everyone worked hard and clearly learned a lot. There was a fire hose of information and everyone soaked it up like a sponge. I like to ensure that all of the basic gun handling and shooting skills are covered in isolation on day one. Once this is accomplished, we can spend day two layering these skills and additional tactics on top of each other creating more complexity and stress. At the end of day one most of the class was overloaded and many were struggling with their skills. However, on day two everything really came together. We spent the morning shooting a lot. We worked on numerous drills to isolate trigger control and proper aiming. This really helped the students achieve a solid accuracy standard and this showed through the rest of the course. Additionally, we incorporated speed reloads into more drills than typical. This paid off for the students as there was, overall, a high level of gun-handling by the end of the course. I appreciate the effort everyone put in, and I look forward to future training opportunities with them.

Also, a special thanks to John and Tye for their hard work, keeping me on task, and making everything run smoothly.