I have been to a number of classes this year as you all have read. I was coming into this class at the S.T.A.R.T. wondering if I was making the right choice in spending my hard earned money on a “Basic” class after doing a couple advanced classes recently. I have absolutely no problem with going back and taking a basic class every now and then to get back to the basics and brush away bad habits that easily form, but after coming out of a VSM Pistol 2 class I was worried about being bored and feeling held back by some of the newer students in the class. BOY WAS I WRONG!
S.T.A.R.T. (Special Tactics and Rescue Training) was founded by Frank Hoagland in 2005 in Steubenville Ohio, and is a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) dedicated to bringing jobs and business opportunities to the Ohio Valley. S.T.A.R.T. is prepared to train anyone from the new Concealed Handgun License holder to the battle vetted tiered warrior.
Frank Hoagland (second from Left) Founder and CEO of S.T.A.R.T.
The owner, founder, and lead instructor is Frank Hoagland. Frank served 20+ years with the Navy with most of that time Operating as a SEAL with Teams 4 and 6, he retired with the rank of Senior Chief Petty Officer. Frank has trained government agencies such as the D.O.D, worked closely with the Federal Air Marshals, and was handpicked to develop and administer courses of instruction for the U.S. Department of State Crisis Response Team and the U.S. Navy’s Maritime Mission Vessel Boarding Search and Seizure Mission. Frank is a man of many talents and specialties and brings a world of knowledge to the firing line with his students. Hopefully, I can sit down and talk more with Frank and get a little more information to pick his brain a little for a future article. (Frank I hope you are reading this.) One other fun little fact about Frank can be found in the March 2013 issue of Guns Magazine on page 103. SSK Industries and Frank partnered up and came up with a very interesting AR style rifle appropriately named “The Hoaginator”
The START facility is top-notch. There is a small pro shop, a couple administrative office rooms, a kitchen area, and an excellent top of the line classroom. I can only dream to some day to be able to teach in a class room of this caliber. In a day full of shooting and gun play you would think that the quality of the facility would be the last thing brought up and talked about among the students, but I kept overhearing everyone making comments about how great of a facility START was offering up. All too often when a range is being built most of the focus is on the shooting areas and the classroom is mostly overlooked. My hat goes off to START for building such an amazing facility that not only provided plenty of opportunity on the range to learn as well as in the classroom.
The class I signed up for was labeled as the Basic Urban Tactical Pistol Shooting Course. As I said earlier I was a little leery going into the class because of the title. The class starts out like every class should, a short classroom part to discuss safety, take the money, sign the liability release forms, and a brief summary of the course outline. As Mr. Hoagland was writing the course outline on the dry erase board I was laughing because I actually thought he was kidding. We had a rather large class of 17 students and we were divided up into 2 groups. Adam from NUoSU concealment and I were put into group one with Frank leading our group. The other group was led by Jamie, one of the many assistant instructors there to assist you with any tips or tricks to help you improve your shooting.
We headed out to the range and started off with 20 1″ dots on the targets. This was all on command slow fire to get a good warm up in and for the instructors to gauge the level of the students accuracy wise. From there we moved on to drawing and reloading. We went through a lot of one bullet magazines. Reloading to me is a huge skill set that I don’t believe is touched on enough at some of the other classes I have attended and I was happy to see so much time spent in this area.
By now the temperature was up around 90 degrees and it was time for a water break. After the water break we covered malfunction drills and detailed the different levels of malfunctions and the proper way to address each one. Frank’s easy way of teaching made understanding very easy for the newer shooters of the group which showed during the drills when everyone was cussing and swearing at their guns trying to clear all the real world malfunctions we were able to achieve. After that, it was lunch time and we headed back into the AC for a cool down and discuss some of the questions we might have had from the morning session.
Up until this point the class–besides the malfunction drills–was what you would expect out of a basic class. The way the lead instructor presented and explained the drills while giving reasons as to why he feels it should be performed those ways kept everyone engaged. There were two others there from the first VSM class I took and we were able to talk over lunch about the similarities of the curriculum and the differences in the presentation that made it more engaging and easier for the newer shooters to understand. Between the three of us we came to the unanimous conclusion that already the class was well worth the tuition and the bullets so far and we were only halfway through the day.
After lunch is when the class started picking up skill level wise. If you remember the summary of the VSM Pistol 2 class I attended recently I talked about some of the drills we performed. START’s Basic Urban Tactical Pistol Shooting Course covers above and beyond what skills I learned in that class. The afternoon session started with stepping to cover. After students were comfortable with that we were moved into turns.
Real life is a lot different than a square range where the threat is always in front of you, there may be a time where you have to engage a target from your right or left and possibly even from your rear. Turning around is something we do on a daily basis so it is commonly overlooked as a natural thing to do with a firearm. Just by adding a turn and a draw into shooting opened a lot of eyes to the newer shooters. Doing the turns was one of my favorite drills of the day along with the reloads. Frank again had a very simple way of teaching a complicated technique that had the newer shooters very fluid and comfortable quickly.
After the lesson on turns we covered shooting forward and side to side. When we covered moving rearward there was a unique way of moving your feet that I have never been shown at any of the classes I have attended. It was more of a sliding motion over a stepping motion in order to keep from stepping on anything or falling over any objects.
At this point in the class most students were assessing their ammo levels. The class was a 300 round count class and by this time we were going onto 500 rounds. I can honestly say those were 500 unwasted rounds. There was never a drill that I felt that was over done or just a time waster. I have been to classes where you are pulling the trigger and feel as though you are not accomplishing anything, this was not the case on Saturday. The instructors knew we were well over the round count for the day and huddled every one up and took us back into the classroom for another briefing. This is the part of the class outline where I thought Frank was joking.
START has just added a new shoot house to their facility. The layout was thought up by Frank himself and is very challenging and complex. Every inch you move changes the entire dynamic of the situation you are in. Every student was able to go through the house once dry to get a feel for it and then live to get the whole experience. This created some down time so to keep everyone going, Simunitions were brought out and the duels began. If you have never been able to use Simunitions I highly recommend you find a place to give it a go. Think of it as a more intense game of Paintball. There were a few people in the class that were very uneasy about having a gun pointed at them. It really is a test of putting all your skills and knowledge to the ultimate stress test. Not every class gets to experience these two parts of the class because it is based on the skill level of the students as a whole. I was very fortunate to be in a class with a great group of shooters that set the bar very high for a basic class. After everyone had run through the shoot house and used the Simunitions, we met back in the classroom for our debriefing and to receive our certificates of completion.
I can’t recommend Frank and START enough. After talking with three other students over dinner afterwards everyone made the comment that this class was the best class they have ever attended. I know for me, hands down this class fit every bit of criteria that I hope to fill when attending a class and choosing an instructor. Another aspect that was agreed upon by the four of us at dinner was the cost. In the world of firearms you get what you pay for. In this case you are getting a hell of a deal. I would expect a class like this with the skill level of the instructors, the state of the art facility, and the course material to cost 2 to 3 times more than it did. This is the best money I have spent all year towards training and I did not hesitate at any moment coming home to make sure that my readers know and understand this. On a side note, we also found out over dinner that with all the Oral I.V. controversy being discussed on the internet right now there is only a certain amount of salt you can add to a persons drink before it becomes unpalatable. Who knew?
Thanks again to Frank and his team for the great day. I am already looking forward to contacting them and getting into the next class. Again I hope all my readers contact START and get into a class as soon as possible. When you finish that head over to our Facebook page and like us over there. Don’t forget about Shooters Legion also where you can win a chance at a Head down Products AR if you sign up before the 10 thousand member drawing happens. As always thanks for reading.
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