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Thread: AAR: Larry Vickers Advanced Handgun Marksmanship Class, 21 MAR Bellevue, WA

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    AAR: Larry Vickers Advanced Handgun Marksmanship Class, 21 MAR Bellevue, WA

    I attended the Larry Vickers Advanced Pistol Marksmanship class at West Coast Armory (http://www.westcoastarmory.com/) in Bellevue, WA on Monday, 31 March 2016.

    Overall

    This was a one-day course, run on a Monday. This is my third class at WCA. They’re the home of InSights Training Center, and recently have begun to bring in the entire roster from Alias Training. WCA is an absolutely first-rate indoor facility, with a good retail store and a gunsmith. If you live in western Washington and haven’t been there, then you owe it to yourself to check it out.

    Getting to the range normally takes 45 minutes. But this course was on a Monday, so there was rush-hour traffic and it took an hour and 15 minutes. Seattle traffic is never good, so I left home early and made it to class on time, but the fact remains that if you take a class at WCA or anywhere else near Seattle, then allow plenty of drive time.

    Students & Gear

    There was one other former SF guy, a handful of cops, and a few guys I recognized from a Hackathorn class in September. I have not taken a lot of classes, but the students in this one were much more dialed in than I expected. This was good, as Larry only ran 2-3 diagnostic drills before we started drinking from the firehose.

    I shot a VP9 with factory night sights. Aside from Talon grip tape, it was stock. I also saw a new-ish Colt 1911 Rail Gun, a 2011, a Walther P99, a SIG 320, and a SIG P226. Everyone else shot Glocks or M&Ps, with slightly more Glocks than Smiths. One guy, who Larry named “Mr. Dot”, had a Deltapoint on a G17, which he ran with exceptional skill. One guy had XS Big Dot sights on his Glock, which earned LAV’s pretty vocal contempt. Everyone else ran conventional iron sights. Most of the Glocks and M&Ps had some kind of mods—fiber optic front sights, magwells, stippling, etc.

    Larry shot a heavily customized G17. From what I could see, it had stippling, front/top cocking serrations, some other slide milling, what looked like a grip reduction, and the finger grooves had been removed. He also had a couple of light primer strikes. The owner of the range was in the class, and at one point he left the range with Larry’s G17 and brought it back a few minutes later. After that, it ran. I suspect he took it to their on-site gunsmith. Larry carried this pistol and its mags in his signature model Raven holster/mag carrier combo.

    Program of Instruction

    This course followed one of Larry’s standard two-day weekend courses (also held at at WCA), which several of our students attended. A scheduling screw-up meant that we had 23 students, so we ran three relays. Larry was not happy about that, but it worked out OK—he powered through with no breaks except for lunch. If a relay ran long, you had a chance to hit the bathroom or stuff mags.

    This course moved very quickly. Some AARs I read before class mentioned that Larry seemed distracted and that he spent a lot of time on his phone. I did NOT see that. He took a couple of calls, but if anything, that let us catch our breath and get ready for the next drill.

    I shot ~250 rounds before lunch and ~150 after. Apparently this is more than usual—Larry prefers to either stop training either at 1500 hours OR once 300 rounds have been fired OR 6 hours from the time the first shot is fired.

    As Larry told us at the start, this class was not for beginners. Apart from a quick run of dry-firing with a dime or a fired case on the front sight, we spent no time on fundamentals, as he expected us to know them. He also didn’t spend time on war stories or talking about gear, which was nice. It was all shooting.

    The course focused on combining speed and accuracy without selling either one short, so we shot a mix of slow fire and blazing fast drills from 2 to 15 yards. I was interested in the contrast between how LAV and Pat McNamara teach performance-based training. The overall goal is to shoot a drill with no misses at the standard distance within the par time. Mac says that if you can't clean a drill in par time, then you extend the time and as you improve, you shorten the time. Larry alters the distance, bringing the target closer until you can clean the drill within the par time, then moving it out as you become able to clean it more quickly. In both cases, you MUST shoot the drill clean. Outcome-based training would have you keep the time and distance the same and measure improvement by your score. Larry and Mac both insist that you shoot the drill clean, which is how they reinforce the focus on accuracy. This is probably the most important thing that I learned.

    I won’t publish Larry's POI, but there are some of the main takeaways:
    • The VP9’s “drive the dot” sight picture drove me nuts. I’m 54 years old and my astigmatism made the tritium lamp on the front sight look like a russet potato about half the time. That would have been fine for shooting at the 6” x 11” A-zone on a full IPSC target, but we were shooting for the X-ring on B-8 repair centers, which is slightly larger than a quarter. I did OK but it was a struggle and I’m actively looking for something else. I’m not sure what yet, but I can certainly see how folks who stress accuracy find plain black sights so appealing.
    • The guy with the Deltapoint was top gun on most of the drills. He definitely disproved the idea that you can't shoot a red dot well at speed up close.
    • Trigger control matters, especially as your vision starts to go.
    • There were no easy drills. Working with Ken Hackathorn, it felt like some of the drills had downright leisurely par times. The par times in Larry's class were very short. For some, we could only fire while the timer was beeping, with a significant penalty for an early shot. Larry said this was to prepare us to fire in response to a specific stimuli without jerking the trigger. This is not as hard as it seems once you get a feel for it.
    • We did not shoot any multiple-target drills. The last drill was shot on 1” pieces of black target repair tape. We shot every other drill on a B-8 repair center pasted onto an IPSC target. His "Black, White, Brown" scoring system uses time as the shooter’s base score. Hits on the black part of the target add no time. Hits on the white paper add one second. Hits on the brown cardboard add three seconds. Misses add five seconds.
    • We shot an abbreviated version of the Humbler. Larry said that the Humbler had been designed for people shooting match-grade 1911s at 25 yards, so if you shoot a different type of pistol, then you should alter the distance. Given the pistols and the students in our class, he felt that 18 yards was about right. We skipped the prone stages. If you drop fewer than 20 points using the Black/White/Brown scoring system, then you’re doing well. Dropping fewer than 10 points is considered excellent. If you can do this, then you should score the drill using the actual scoring rings.
    • We didn’t work on manipulations at all. We shot a few drills that included reloading purely to distract us from shooting well, which worked admirably.
    • I like to see the instructor demo every drill, at least for a basic class. Larry didn’t shoot the easier drills, but he did shoot the harder ones. You’d be on the line trying to hang on to your ass and out of the corner of your eye, you’d see him shooting the same drill WHO—and killing it. For what it’s worth, he set a Personal Best on the Half Test (2.80 seconds). Obviously, when an instructor is shooting at that level, he can skip the basic drills.
    • Guys shooting single-column pistols have to focus on keeping mags loaded so they don’t get behind in drills and keep the class waiting.


    That’s all I can think of for now, but I would definitely take this class again.

    Let me know if you have questions.


    Okie John
    Quote Originally Posted by Suwannee Tim View Post
    He wants something par-full. But not too par-full.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by okie john View Post
    [*]Guys shooting single-column pistols have to focus on keeping mags loaded so they don’t get behind in drills and keep the class waiting.
    I took this class a few years ago and shot a 1911. I had 8 (I think) mags and I spent a lot of time reloading. But the class was awesome. Mentally fatiguing.

  3. #3
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    Hi Mr. VP9, you don't have to be so modest You kicked ass in the class. I remember you shot 1v1 with Mr. Dot once or twice!
    I were in the same class with you. I was the red shirt guy. So glad to see your post here. I registered and waited like 2 weeks to get permission to reply.
    This is really a great write-up! It helps me to re-memorize what we have learned. I regret I did not note anything during class. Few days after the class I started to search reviews of LAV classes to try get the pieces left in my mind together. I feel so grateful when seeing this post!
    Mr. Dot is a firearm instructor from our local firearm/self-defense training school. He instructed me as an assistant instructor along with the school's chief instructor in pistol and rifle courses.

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