AAR; Vickers Tactical 1 Day HD Fort Harmar 4-14-2012
I got asked a couple months ago if I would be interested in taking a Larry Vickers HD class at the Fort Harmar shoot house. Once I ascertained that I had the $$ in the fun stash I let Grant know I was game to go. Elapsed time from receiving text until replying affirmative, about 1 minute. If you have the $$, time, and the prerequisite skill set, do not miss LAV's classes.
About 3 weeks ago, I get a new set of glasses. The work computer headache disappears, yay! I am totally hosed on irons due to my eyes getting into dominance wars, boo! I am right handed and left eye dominant, largely due to my right eye having enough astigmatism for a laser correction guy to ask me if he could use it as a worst case scenario to show at industry meetings. Well my new glasses fixed me up a good bit on that. Not good. Now I do not know which side of my brain is running the show and when I shoot on the move I will get two distinct groups thanks to eye dominance shenanigans. I bitch to Grant about this and get reminded how few of these classes LAV does. He is right, so I start working on unfkcng myself regarding my current vision issues. Three weekends of practice is not enough to get used to your brain/eye going "Left, no right, I mean Left or do I mean right" and I was squinting my right eye nearly closed to get the hits.
Why did I just spend half a page whining about my vision? You will see.
Ok so the class starts with some warming up shooting. 3/6/9 yard command fire stuff, etc. Drills to let the instructors see what our skill level is, and to get us to realize that we can shoot well enough to get deadnuts hits at the ranges that we will encounter in the shoothouse. Here I am shooting in full cheating/squinting mode and getting the hits that I am used to getting. x/x/10 ring.
Class gets divided up into two groups. G1 goes into the house to do a blue gun dry-run and G2 goes to do some barricade work. I am in G2 and get to discover that stacked plastic barrels really screw me up on finding the line to work a barricade, there is no straight edge to index (cheat) off of. Wouldn't think that would be enough to screw someone up, would you? It is. At least it is enough to screw me up. So I would end up with my whole body beyond the barrel and then leaning out further to get the shot, or not get enough of my head beyond the barrel to get a good sight picture. Luckily the shoothouse is made out of railroad ties, so I would be able to find the line there.
Now it is time for G2 to get our dry run in the house. That was when the main conclusion that I drew from the class began to percolate in my mind, more on that later though. As we work through the house the differences between a one man defensive clear and all of the other types begin to really sink in. Slow and fast at different times than I was comfortable doing and moving with the pistol up high: either compressed back to maintain control and sight picture in tight areas or up in almost shooting position; this really jacked me up. I was so bad at keeping the pistol up in ready position when moving that LAV called out a few others for pulling a "nate" when they let the muzzles drop while moving….
Lunch time. This range is so far out in BFE that you eat what you bring. In this case it was Chef Boyardee Beef ravioli and some Mott's Applesauce (in case anyone gives a chit).
G1 Hits the house for their first live fire run. While this is going on we start to do some shoot on the move work. Real basic stuff: advancing and retreating in a straight line. At the time it seemed like just something to keep us shooting while the other group was in the house, but in hindsight it also seems like it was something to use up another hour's worth of concentration. Using up this concentration would come back to bite me later.
It is our turn to run through the house for the first time. We are shooting on Vickers tactical targets which are about half the size of an IDPA target, full-sized head, a 6” (I think) bull, and A + B zones. Larry has mentioned that most people get a case of the stupids when they go through the house the first few times, due to doing something completely new and the adrenaline of the scenario. I am a great example of this, as I have an ignominious start. I knock the door open and it decides to start swinging closed as I start to engage the first target, shooting through the doorway. I think I can hit the target without shooting the door. I fail at both. Door is now perforated but the target is not. Oh, and the door is now closed again. Now, I am pissed and embarrassed, on top of the adrenaline hit I had gotten already from the whole situation. So I get reminded that I hadn’t dealt with the first target and I restart the entire entry again.
Engage the first target, remembering to cheat a bit and almost close my right eye, two in the black. Second target, one in the black, one in the white; third target, two in the black; fourth 1 black, one white. Not a pretty run thanks to the brain farts that are already beginning. I had let the adrenaline hit, with the idea that this would be as wound up as I would ever be in a shoothouse and being wound up would be a good bit of added reality. After the first target this idea began to show its flaws, as I would forget to squint almost every time I would shoot in the house the rest of the day. I also got locked into shooting a target twice and only twice. Good hits, bad hits, or no hits. Two was the count, not one, nor three, but two. I watch the rest of G2 run the house from the catwalk above the shoothouse. It is amazing how much you pick up from watching others from that perspective. You learn from seeing others do it 5X’s better than you did and you learn from watching them lick the windows clean.
After that mess, we (G2) go back to the side range to do some more shoot on the move in a dynamic entry setting, as a change of pace and to use up a bit more of our concentration. In hindsight this is when I should have realized I was mentally toast, as I am normally pretty good doing SOM at 15 yards and closer, sadly I was putting almost as many in the white as in the black by now on these drills. One of the great parts of being that mentally fried is that you are too mentally dull to realize your condition. You just get more annoyed because you know you can shoot better than you are, but not bright enough to address the issues. Nice little spiral of screwing up.
We do another scenario with the VT targets. This time we have not had a dry run. We enter from the other door of the house, directly into a hallway. I do my, by now standard, shoot each target 2 times and only two times, with all but two in the black for the run. Recall one sight picture, the rest were most likely point shots.
G1 goes for their first run at the house with the decision targets, we in G2 go for some SOM work. Figure 8 drills and box drills. I am mentally toasted enough by now to realize it and my knees have gotten to the “I hate you” stage of our relationship, more rounds are hitting white than black. Stiff legs and SOM are not things that go together.
It is now our turn for the first run through with the decision targets. Fun times. Transitioning from a bull to a photo realistic target is always a challenge for me, add the fact that these were decision targets designed to make you work to ID if the target was shoot or no shoot, and the degree of difficulty goes up more. This is where my shoot at the target twice and only twice, with a good chance that I am point shooting really bit me in the ass. I got theoretically lethal hits with one round and then the other would be on the paper somewhere with some being hits and others…not.
LAV is…unimpressed with our performance, so he and Grant setup another scenario and we run through one at a time, no G1/G2. I have the dubious honor of being the only one to zap a good guy target on this scenario. On top of that I did not get a good hit at all on one of the Shoot targets and only one ok hit on the other shoot target.
Observations/things I learned/general commentary.
1. Do not do a single person clear unless you have no other options. Started to figure this out early on, and later experience reinforced that conclusion.
2. If you do have to do one. Go slow.
3. Do not think that you will be mentally able to do anything different in your shooting when you are trying to clear a house. It isn’t really that hard to remember to squint your right eye, but I forgot to do it more than half of the time.
4. Getting into the scenarios and riding the adrenaline is something to do when you are trying to evaluate where you are skill wise, not a good idea to do when first attempting a new skill.
5. The added challenge of being in the 360 degree environment of the shoothouse is needed to be experienced to really grasp. At least that was the case for me.
6. Do more barricade work, you will need it.
"Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master."
-- George Washington