350 A Girl & A Gun Members
65 Brilliant Instructors
40 Generous On-Site Vendors
16 Dedicated Staff Members
12 Hard-Working Range Donkeys
67 Event Sponsors
35 Simultaneous Training Sessions
185,000 Rounds of Ammunition
210 Rolls of Toilet Paper
1 Incredible Sisterhood
Wednesday: NRA Range Safety Officer (Karl Rehn), “Should I Stay or Should I Go – Preparedness” (John Kochan)
Thursday: I performed an hour of pre-banquet music (solo piano and vocals) for about 400 people.
Friday: Skill Builder (Karl and John, 2 sessions), Handgun Skills and Drills (Tracy and Tiffany), 2 sessions)
Saturday: Correcting Common Shooting Errors (Karl and John), Historical Handgun (Karl and John), Everyday Carry Guns (Tracy and Tiffany, 2 sessions)
Sunday: Pushing to the Next Level (Karl and John), Precision Pistol (Tracy and Tiffany)
DOING IT RIGHT
I’ve been a presenter at the conference every year since year 2 (this was the 6th year). Everything about this year’s conference was professional grade. A short list of things they do very well, that deserve recognition:
1) For the 3 days of the main conference, there were 35 different training events running in parallel, involving dozens of instructors teaching a very wide range of students. The scope of that effort is equal or greater than a major match like a USPSA or IDPA National championship, particularly since many conference attendees have never attended anything beyond a local chapter event before. The event organizers and range support staff do an incredible job with logistics and support for all the activities.
2) On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday prior to the main conference, AG&G provided continuing education and development for their local chapter facilitators, who serve both as club leaders and trainers at the local level. The level of shooting skill expected from those facilitators is higher than what is required for NRA basic pistol or our state level “license to carry” instructor program. In a perfect world, the NRA would offer regional annual instructor continuing education similar to what AG&G offers for their facilitators. It’s a significant level of commitment for the facilitators to invest 6-7 days each year for both the facilitator training and the main conference.
3) AG&G sorts participants into different “tracks” based on their experience and ability. Early attempts to have participants self-sort encountered the same problems that exists everywhere in the firearms training industry: the tendency of people to over-rate their abilities and enroll in courses that require skills beyond their actual capabilities. In recent years they created a check in “gear check” process with a clearly defined set of performance standards that participants have to demonstrate, to earn their track.
This process solved a lot of problems trainers presenting at previous conferences had with mismatches between student equipment and skills and course curriculum. This year was the first time that every course I taught was attended by students with the correct background and gear for the session. Previous years always had 1-2 that were not ready for the higher level courses.
John Daub and I have written extensively on minimum standards and methods each shooter can use for individual assessment (and goal setting). AG&G has done an excellent job of creating a structure for their members that describes a clear path to developing handgun skill.
4) Equipment selection can be a challenge, particularly holster selection for ladies. AG&G required all ladies attending to have an outside the waistband holster, regardless of level. Additionally, they had requirements for holsters similar to what we use in our classes, so most ladies showed up with good quality kydex holsters, instead of cheap nylon, or “gimmick” holsters that are appealing for concealed carry but are problematic when used on a firing line during a group class. This year the only gear problems we had in any session were guns that were too big for the shooter’s hand. That’s a significant reduction in gear challenges that occurred in earlier years.
5) Overall level of shooting skill and consistency in prior training. Over the past 5 years, I’ve seen the overall level of shooting skill, even at the lowest track, move up. Similarly, the level of safe gun handling and understand of proper range etiquette (how to use a safe table and handle guns in a training environment around others) has significantly increased. I’ve also observed that the information being given to local chapter members by facilitators is much more consistent than it was in the early years.
All of those things are happening because the national organization has put a lot of effort into developing their local facilitators, and the local facilitators are doing an excellent job of passing good information down to local chapter members.
The end result of this is that the majority of women I trained at this year’s conference had better gun handling, better technique and were shooting better than the vast majority of shooters that only have their state carry permit who attend my Defensive Pistol Essentials or Defensive Pistol Skills 1 course.
Everyone associated with the AG&G organization deserves recognition and attention for that significant accomplishment. AG&G’s created its own new shooter course, that facilitators were trained to teach during this year’s conference, and I expect that will be yet another step forward for the excellent work being done, particularly by the local facilitators.