|Home - Volume 2 (2007) - Issue 1 (Winter '07) - Louis Awerbuck Shooting Course at Reed's Indoor Range|
Louis Awerbuck Shooting Course at Reed's Indoor Range
By Frank Ettin ()
I recently had the opportunity to take an outstanding close-quarters defensive handgun class at Reed's Indoor Range (http://www.reedsindoorrange.com/) in Santa Clara, California. The class was conducted by Louis Awerbuck (Yavapai Firearms Academy -- http://www.yfainc.com/), the author of Tactical Reality and More Tactical Reality. Taking the class further reinforces my belief that (1) taking classes from different instructors is good because it exposes one to different points of view; and (2) there's always something new to learn; and (3) taking shooting classes is fun.
Awerbuck certainly has the right credentials. Formerly in the South African Defense Force, he worked for Jeff Cooper as chief rangemaster at Gunsite until 1987. His bio on his website goes into greater detail, but suffice it to say that he has the background to write about and teach this stuff. And in person he's a very good teacher. His presentation is clear and direct with a nice sprinkling of humor.
Through the good offices of Jim Reed and Eric Fisher at Reed's Indoor Range, Awerbuck is teaching several classes there. Awerbuck is teaching a series of classes beginning with a one day class in defensive handgun safety and manipulation designed for folks with little experience and covering basic gun handling skills including presentation from a holster and basic marksmanship. That may be followed by a two day class in basic defensive handgun skills. Other classes he'll be teaching include low light techniques, the use of a back-up gun and tactical awareness.
The class I took was the third in the series. It requires successful completion of the first two classes or demonstration to the satisfaction of the management at Reed's that one has equivalent training and skills. Since I've taken another class at Reed's and Fisher had seen me shooting, I was permitted to skip the preliminaries, as did some others in my class. So this was a somewhat advanced class. We were expected to already have a grounding in basic self defense gun handling skills, e. g., safe gun handling, marksmanship, trigger reset, presentation from a holster, tactical and speed reloads, dealing with malfunctions, etc. So we really didn't spend any time on these things. However, Awerbuck did ask if anyone had some shooting problems they wanted to try to clear up, and a few folks did. So Awerbuck spent a little time polishing up some marksmanship issues. They were minor and attended to in short order.
We then got down to business. There were 12 of us in the class, so we shot in two relays of six. While one relay was shooting the other was charging magazines and observing. The range was run "hot", i. e., our holstered guns were loaded even when we weren't on the line.
The students used what is probably a typical range of self defense pistols. There was one H&K USP Compact, one Springfield XDA, a Sig Sauer, several Glocks and several 1911s. I used my Nighthawk Talon II, eight of the Nighthawk (ActMag) magazines and a Bulman SDS holster. I was shooting MagTech 230 grain FMJ ammunition. We shot about 200 rounds in the course of the day, and my Talon II preformed without a bobble. (Except a magazine failed to lock the slide back twice. I'll need to head off to the range with those magazines and find out which one. I wasn't able to stop during the class to identify the misbehaving magazine.)
We started off with some fairly basic drills. On command, draw and fire at least two and up to five rounds center of mass - quickly and accurately, and doing speed reloads as necessary. Then again, sometimes we were directed to take a head shot. We ran these drills at about 7 yards and 10 yards. The idea was to make multiple good hits quickly and smoothly and consistently.
In this regard, it's worthwhile to note some of the unique features of Awerbuck's point of view. First, he is not doctrinaire about a number of things. A student is generally free to do things his own way, as long as it's safe. If you prefer the weaver or if you're dedicated to the isosceles - fine. But that said, he does let you know that he is not a fan of the tactical reload. It may be appropriate under cover during a lull in the activities, or if you're working with a partner who can provide covering fire; but most of the time, if you need to reload, you need to do it as quickly as possible.
He also insists that in self defense shooting one still must be accurate. It may not be target shooting, but you must still hit the target. First, a miss isn't going to stop anyone. Second, a miss may hit something you really don't want to shoot - like your neighbor's kid. Third, when you consider a three dimensional, human target, there's an approximately 4 inch in diameter area that you need hit, preferably multiple time, to have a good chance of quickly halting the hostilities. Awerbuck continually points out that handgun ammunition is not all that powerful (sorry guys - that includes our well loved .45 ACP), and seriously vital stuff in a person is pretty well concentrated. And we have to add to that the fact that a person is essential a three dimensional cylinder - not a flat piece of cardboard.
So now Awerbuck introduces 3D targets - the paper targets are curved. So we run our drills on curved 3D targets now, and it's a very different thing. And then Awerbuck ups the ante even further. In a self defense situation, your target is probably not going to be standing up straight, squarely in front of you. So now the 3D targets are leaning this way or that, they're turned one way or another, or maybe even lying down. With 3D targets, especially when oriented other than straight up and squarely in front of you, "center of mass" doesn't really look quite the same. It's really still the center of mass, but it's a smaller target now - or at least it looks smaller.
And now Awerbuck introduces movement. If someone is shooting at you (or even coming at you with an impact weapon) just standing there is probably not the best idea you might have. In fact if that's your idea, it may be the last idea you have. So we need to combine moving with shooting. So now, using or "strangely" oriented, 3D targets we draw, shoot and sidestep one, two or three steps, to the right or left as directed, while shooting at the same time. In Awerbuck's model, moving and shooting are combined. We don't move and then shoot or shoot and then move - we do both at once.
As we go though these exercises, each new set of skills builds on those drilled before. So now we add another dimension to the shooting problem.
We are each assigned a target. The targets are, of course, still 3D. They may also be leaning and turned. Each is also a different height and a different distance from the firing line. Finally, your target may not be directly in front of you, and it may indeed be partly obscured by someone else's target.
So for this next exercise, the rules of engagement are thus: on command you will draw and fire at least 2 and up to 5 good, quick, smooth and accurate shots at your target; if an appropriate point of impact on your target is obscured by another target you MUST NOT shoot through that other target, but rather you must move, safely, as necessary to get a good shot on your target; in shooting your target, you MUST NOT shoot through your target and hit another target; you will perform speed reloads as necessary. So this drill required us to deal with a number of significant "real world" issues. In a real self defense situation, we may not be immediately presented with an opportunity for a shot on our target offering a reasonable possibility of stopping hostilities. We may need to make our opportunity. And in a real life self defense situation, there may be non-combatants who we do not want to risk injuring.
We also did a variation of that drill in which we'd shoot our target and one next to it. This introduced multiple target situations.
For the final shooting exercise, we dealt with the situation of being close to our assailant. In such a situation, the first order of business is to put some bullets into the target, and the next is to get out of Dodge. So at about 2 feet from the target, we would draw to a retention position at about chest level with the pistol close into our side, but far enough forward to be safe to fire, and shoot. Then we would keep shooting while moving diagonally back, for this exercise, to our right. We would keep shooting while moving back as we extend our gun into a two handed shooting position, picking up the sights as we do so - and performing speed reloads as necessary. Sounds a little like the movie Collateral, doesn't it?
When setting up these various drills and after shooting them, Awerbuck would talk about the real world theory and application of the principles reflected in the drills. He'd recount stories illustrating things that may work and may not. He'd always emphasize that there may sometimes be several ways to deal with some problems, each having advantages and disadvantages and that it would be up to each of us to choose which we might use, based in part on our own assessment of our abilities and in part on circumstances.
During the course of the day, we took a break from shooting and practiced some disarming techniques. To be absolutely safe, be used cut up plastic coat hangers to represent guns. In doing something of this nature, you must overcome your natural desire to get away from the gun. These techniques can work only if you are close to you assailant. Also, if you are close and act decisively, without hesitation, you can have a good chance to avoid being shot; but the gun will be fired at least once, and a bullet will go somewhere. That may be a cause for concern, if, for example, you're in a crowded shopping mall or on a busy city street.
The class material was outstanding, and Awerbuck is an engaging and informative teacher. He puts on classes various places, and a full schedule is available on the Yavapai Firearms Academy website (http://www.yfainc.com/). He will be putting on a number and variety of classes at Reed's Indoor Range, and a full schedule is available at http://www.reedsindoorrange.com/.
Many of you probably know that I'm a strong advocate of training for anyone who is interested in using a gun for self defense (and besides, it's fun). If you're anywhere near Santa Clara, California (i. e., somewhere in the San Francisco Bay Area), or somewhere else that Louis Awerbuck is teaching, one of his classes is, in my opinion, well worth your time.
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