Posts Tagged ‘firearms training’

Finally I think my brain has recovered from the 20+ hours I spent in the classroom over the weekend enough for me to sit down and really put some thoughts out there for my readers. If you notice I didn’t put review in the title. I don’t think a review would do this class justice. That would be like me saying I want to write a review for my first time skydiving. It is an experience. I can describe it to you and give you brief points about it here and there but I believe everyone’s experience leaving a MAG-20 will be different which is why I will only give you my final thoughts on it. That may sound strange for most people but until you take the class you won’t truly understand.

The class was held in Twinsburg Ohio and was hosted by Paul Carlson and Safety Solutions Academy. The class was held at the Hilton Garden Inn in one of their conference rooms. It was very convenient to come right down from the room and not have to go anywhere plus the staff kept the coffee, tea, water, and Chex Mix coming.  For this type of class it was a great fit. The conference room was the perfect size to host 22 students and all the audio video equipment. We had a little problem with a DVD player at the end of day one but Paul sorted it out and everything was ready to go by the second day. (By the way keep your eyes on the Safety Solutions Podcast for a post class interview between Paul and Mas)

After we got settled in on Friday I posted up a little info on the Citizen’s Rules of Engagement class so you can check out the links there. Class started at 8:30 on the dot Saturday with a brand new ball point pen and from that moment on it was massive amounts of knowledge being tossed into your face. The weekend ended with a dead ball point pen and 38 pages of hand written notes. The amount of information was amazing.


Class photo from the last day

Now I know you are sitting there wanting me to start into what information was covered and give a good outline of the class. As I started todays post I said this is an experience and everyone gets something different out of it. I walked away from this class realizing that everyone that takes carrying a gun seriously needs to take this class for the simple fact that nobody teaches every stage of an encounter as well Massad Ayoob.

Let’s think about the three sides of an armed encounter real quick. First you have the pre event, the moments leading up to the fight of your life. Next is the fight. Finally we have the post encounter. The MAG-20 class covers all three stages of the event in serious depth. You might survive the encounter only to loose your life in court afterwards because you were sufficiently prepared to handle the aftermath. So many people out there teach for the events leading up and even more teach the how to fight portion, but nobody teaches the after the shoot like Mas.

Obviously there are aspects of the class that are respectfully asked to keep off the internet and I will not be the one to break that trust. I will say for those who are planning on taking a MAG-20 that I felt very prepared from reading some of Massad’s books. One of the most beneficial ones in my opinion was “In the Gravest Extreme”  which is a relatively short read with a ton of information.

Again I think that everyone serious about carrying a gun in self-defense needs to take this class. This class packs so much information into the 20 hours that it feels like you are drinking from a fire hose. The one surprising thing I walked away with is looking at the value of life in a new whole new light. I realized that often when you are busy looking for bad things you sometimes miss the good things in life. I realized also why I carry a gun everyday. The gun isn’t just for me, it is for everyone that depends on me. I owe it to my family to be here for them. I’m no good to them if I am a fancy box six feet under the ground. I am also not any good if I’m in a jail cell because I didn’t know how to properly handle the aftermath of defending my life. That reason is exactly why I feel this class was worth every cent and that everyone who carries a gun needs to take this class.


(From left to right) Paul, Jason, Brian, Massad

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VDG now has another way to be contacted for questions and class registration while we are still working on the website. We now have a Google voice number that we can be reached at. The number is 614-918-VDG1 (8341)

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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.

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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About a month ago I signed up for a VSM pistol 2 class. After completing a the VSM 1 I was eager to jump back in and see what the next class had to offer. I was told by a friend there was one coming shortly so I jumped on it as soon as it became open. I will give you a brief rundown of what to expect  without trying to give away too much of the class. I think it is only fair to the instructors and Vickers Tactical not to give away too much.

The Class was held at Tusco Gun Club which is a very fine club. I want to thank them again for having the class at their facility. I had never been there before and heard a lot of nice things about how great of a facility it was and was very happy to see all the rumors were true.

Tusco Gun Club is a top notch facility with great amenities.

Tusco Gun Club is a top notch facility with great amenities.

Just like the VSM 1 this class was again taught by Grant from G & R Tactical and his trusty sidekick Ben. The day started out with a short safety briefing and we quickly were out on the range for our warm up test. I started the day on a high note by passing scoring 5 points higher than the first class. After the test we worked on efficient drawing.  This seems like a simple concept but if you put your draw against a timer you will more than likely see there is room for improvement. Grant did a good job of breaking it down. He pointed out one mistake I was making and it helped me pick the front sight up faster but I still need much practice. I made my fastest draw time to shoot on target ever which was 1.3 sec.(before it was 1.6). I want to touch on this in the future because this is a very important piece of the self-defense puzzle that I feel goes over looked.

After the draws we moved on to cover Turns. We all walk and turn our bodies everyday and never have to think about it but putting that in motion with drawing and firing is a whole new ballgame. I will never look and how I turn my body the same way again. I did realize one thing about myself during this potion of the class. I am left-handed and right footed. I naturally pivot on my strong foot, which isn’t a problem, it is just backwards to most people. A right-handed person usually will look over their right shoulder when searching the area behind them and lefties look over their left. I naturally look over my right shoulder instead of my left. The thing that I had in my favor is the lifetime of soccer I have played and the turn drills were much like foot work drills I was used to from years ago. I picked up on my “uniqueness” quickly and was able to use it to my advantage after a while.

A shot of some of the class participants.

A shot of some of the class participants.

Shooting and moving came after lunch. Forward, backwards, and lateral were all covered.  This is also something that very few people get to try seeing as most ranges around the country are static. Most ranges will not even let you draw from a holster anymore let alone move while shooting. Again everyone needs to experience this at least once.

The rest of the day we did drills that incorporated all the stuff previously covered. Drawing, Turns, Moving and shooting. There were some looks at pistol effectiveness at distance covered also.

I had a good day and learned a bit about myself throughout the day. I realized I need to keep using the shot timer but I need to take my shooting back further. When I go to the range I am usually shooting between 3-7 yards which is your basic concealed carry distances. If you go to a Vickers class prepare yourself for distance. I also realized I need to get myself into some form of competition shooting. When I go to the range and shoot with my buddies I am calm and never find myself stressed. When I am in a class such as the one over the weekend and I am put out in front of a group of strangers I crumble. I found myself standing there waiting for the shot timer to go off thinking “Don’t screw up.” I need to get myself more accustomed to the stress of performing in front of other. Like I told the instructor after the class, I can take a list of drills and times to the range and perform  them when it is just me and one or two buddies but when it comes to the same drills with an audience I miss the times by nearly a second. All in all it was a great class and again I learned some stuff to practice and added plenty of tips and tricks that I can pass along to my future students.

Be sure to check out the Facebook page . Also Shooters Legion is getting very close to the 10k member mark and they have a Head Down Products Ar that needs a new home be sure to make your way over there to get signed up for your chance to win.

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Since acquiring my NRA instructor title I have decided that I want to make myself a more rounded shooter. I am pretty handy with a semi-auto, especially a Glock, but when it comes to a revolver I feel I am lacking. I can still make good hits but it is the manipulation that I feel is going to get me. I honestly can’t be too upset about it since I know there are lots of guys out there who have never tried to reload their revolver quickly let alone under stress. To me, it is essential to be able to perform something before I feel I can teach it. I obviously expect the same from any instructor that I would pay money to learn from and want to give my students nothing less.

I have leaned towards the .357 caliber and intend to shoot .38s out of it for practice. I like the idea of caliber diversity especially in times like now where you can only shoot what you can find. I briefly considered .327 as my caliber of choice but I didn’t want to step too far out of the mainstream calibers.

Now for the contenders…..

First up, there is the Ruger LCR. This choice I have spent more time with. A friend owns one and I have shot it and handled it more than once. The Hogue grip fits me very nicely and the trigger is very smooth.

Next, we have the odd ball. I said I wanted to keep it in the .357 caliber but this is the exception. The Bodyguard 38 caught my eye right off the bat and I cannot write it off my list. The grip doesn’t fit me as well as the Hogue on the LCR but it isn’t a deal breaker. The biggest attraction I have with the Bodyguard is the ambidextrous cylinder release. Being a lefty has its draw backs and I like the fact that Smith & Wesson remembered us. Another plus for the Bodyguard is it is the lightest of all my picks.

Lastly, on my short list is the Chiappa Rhino. Lets face it, it is ugly as sin but it is innovative and I like that about it. Overall length is on par with the others at 6.5″ but where this has its biggest drawback is the weight. The Rhino weighs in at a whopping 2.5 pounds. Compare that to the 14 ounces of the Bodyguard and you can see it is a huge difference.

There you have it, three revolvers at the top of my list. All three have a their pros and cons to them but I am still undecided. As soon as I make a decision I will be letting everyone know what direction I’m headed. Until then, if you feel there is one I might have overlooked and think I should check it out feel free to let me know. You can find all the ways to contact me at the top of the page under the contact tab. I love to hear from my readers.

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