Small Gun Class
Every year I offer a special 3 hour session of our Defensive Pistol Skills 1 class, with drills modified specifically for small guns, pocket guns, and guns carried in anything that’s not a belt holster.
I do this because of this silly idea I have that people should train with the guns they actually carry. It’s not a popular idea, apparently. This has been a better than average year, though. In the past few years, interest in the course was too low for the course to make. This year, I ran a full session at the 2017 A Girl and Gun conference, and a session at the A-Zone this past Saturday.
Despite a weather forecast threatening 1″ of heavy rain, most of the students showed up. And the tiny amount of rain that fell did not disrupt class at all.
Class included some drills accessing the pocket gun from a seated position, which can be difficult and slow.
Part of the class includes having students shoot our Three Seconds or Less standards drill with both their pocket gun and a larger pistol carried in a belt holster. A few students chose to use the same gun for both drills, changing their carry method for the second run. As noted in the Three Seconds or Less drill page, those carrying in a pocket or using any method that allows getting a firing grip on the pistol without breaking concealment were allowed to do that rather than start from “hands at sides”. That’s because the reality of pocket carry is that it’s slower than drawing from a belt holster, and the only way most people can make the 2 second par time for the draw required to pass the test is to start with hand on gun.
I’ve been keeping records on small gun/large gun performance differences for almost a decade now. The class average with small guns was 70%, and class average with the large gun was 75%. The historical average for the small guns, including data from this class, was 80%, and 87% for the large gun. The average difference for this group was 5%, not far from the 7% historical average.
A few students that shot worse with the large gun, and a small sample set skewed the data somewhat. Most students dropped 7-10% from large gun to small gun, with outliers at -17% and +4% (better with the small gun). We had been shooting the small guns for 2 hours before taking the test for score with both the small and large guns. As with every group, scores with the small guns would have been lower had we tested at the start of class instead.
The biggest change in this year’s group was consistency in gun choice. Almost everyone had a small gun that was similar to their large gun. One student started class with a lightweight .38 snub revolver and put it away after the first 30 minutes, choosing to take the rest of the course with an XD-S instead. Gun weight, poor factory sights, long heavy trigger pull, low hand strength and general inexperience at shooting were all factors in the student’s decision to switch guns, and switching guns produced an immediate and significant improvement in the student’s ability to get acceptable, timely hits.
If you are a gun shop employee, gun dealer, untrained forum-advice-giving gun owner, blogger, gun writer or trainer that continues to recommend or sell lightweight .38 revolvers to new gun buyers, please stop.
We live in the golden age of gun design. There are dozens of semiauto models on the market in .380 and 9mm, all easier to shoot than any of the balsawood .38 snubs with tiny sights and a trigger pull that’s 500% of the weight of the gun. All the lowest scores in my records of small gun testing were shot with .38 snubs, with only two shooters making a passing score of 70%.
As a special treat to those that braved the weather and the challenge of shooting the small guns, everyone got a bonus run in the shoot house, using the 3D reactive targets and our new rolling “Rubber Dummy” target.
We’ll be offering the course again in late July. Don’t have a small gun because you always carry your Glock 19? We have loaners. Try something new.
Don’t need training in the small gun because you are awesome with your 5″ full size match gun and you are positive your skill will translate down to that DA/SA .380 you carry daily and haven’t shot in the past year? Skip that July match, where you would standing around for 7 hours spending most of the day taping other people’s targets, and come to my class instead. 3 hours, 150 rounds, done by noon. The only targets you tape are your own, and we only tape hits outside the A-zone. So if you shoot good enough, you won’t have to tape at all!
Many years ago I wrote an article about this course for the US Concealed Carry Association magazine. For more info about the course, that article is still online.
Skill Builder Long Gun
I paired the small gun class with a new two hour Long Gun Skill Builder course, intended to appeal to those that have taken our Defensive Long Gun Essentials course, or any other carbine class or rifle match. It’s mainly intended as an AR, AK or pistol caliber carbine class, but I beta-tested the drills using a lever action .45 Colt cowboy rifle for fun the day before class and was able to just barely make the time limits and hits, so it could be taken with a lever or pump action rifle if desired.
Most of the small gun students stuck around for the long gun class. The weather forecast caused several that had signed up only for the afternoon class to bail out, missing out on what is probably our last not-too-hot training day until September.
The class focused on lots of reps of low round count, 10-20 yard drills shooting 1-2 targets that were 3-8″ in size, mostly from standing or working around barricades with lots of emphasis on quickly getting the rifle from ready to target with a fast, accurate first shot.
This was the first time we’ve offered the course, and based on student feedback, it will stay in rotation alongside the popular pistol Skill Builder course, as a way for students interested in both pistol and long gun to get some trigger time with both in a single training day. We’ll offer it on July 29 paired with the Defensive Pistol Small Gun class.