Armed Self-Defense To Shoot Fast, You Have To See Fast

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To gun owners who think taking a basic course and occasionally shooting holes in paper prepare them for armed self-defense, let me assure you nothing could be further from the truth. The fourth in the “Armed self-defense” series, this segment covers Phase I of the Practical/Tactical (P/T I) pistol course taught by Eagle Rock Training Systems veteran instructors Tom Iradi and Scott Mauldin.

This course is a perfect transition for the gun owner who has hunted, perhaps done a little plinking or target shooting, and is now serious about learning handgun defense. Where advanced courses at “big-name” schools might be expensive and intimidating, Tom and Scott go out of their way to make P/T I not only educational and enjoyable but also, quite frankly, a bargain.

P/T I is designed to convey basic combat handgun skills, emphasizing:

  • Correct handgun grip as essential to rapidly acquiring an adequate sight picture to hit your target; and
  • How consistent “shooting platform” (position) is essential to accuracy.

The course began with discussion of combat mindset, including Jeff Cooper’s “conditions of awareness.” Avoiding what he calls the “Kumbaya” aspects of using deadly force, Scott gave common sense tips on avoiding the “it-can’t-happen-to-me” mentality by which people surrender themselves to slaughter in places like Virginia Tech.

Emphasizing that if attacked, you must resolve not only to “survive” the encounter, but to overwhelmingly win, he discussed how contingency planning, when encountering potential threats, lets you remain above the “shock threshold” and get the information needed to win the fight.

Next came the range safety briefing, emphasizing the challenges of a “hot range” environment in which guns stay loaded but holstered while away from the firing line.


Rather than demanding “Bullseye” shooter accuracy, P/T I, like all combat courses, stressed rapid sight acquisition and delivering fast hits on “combat distance” targets at between 3 and 7 yards. Targets were “IDPA”-style cardboard silhouettes with paper overlays as necessary.

Students ranged from those with little exposure to techniques of defensive pistolcraft to several with extensive experience. Several of us had bad habits to unlearn. Throughout, Tom and Scott displayed cheerful (and humorous) professionalism, enforcing range safety while tailoring instruction to those who needed extra help.

Given my recommendation that people who don’t shoot often should consider a nice, old-fashioned revolver instead of the latest semi-auto, I was happy to see revolver shooter Ellis George smoke nearly all of us on several drills (Slide Show #1).

For “experts” out there who will scold me over what is missing or “wrong,” bear in mind that what follows is a brief synopsis of the course, not its full contents. Moreover, far more will be covered on Wednesday when we review Eagle Rock’s P/T II course.

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May 28, 2009