On Thursday and Friday (April 6-7, 2017) I attended the MAG-20 range class, taught by Massad Ayoob, assisted by Gail Pepin, Tracy Thronburg, and Greg Taggart. It was part of the full MAG-40 (classroom and range combined) that I hosted at KR Training. I’ve hosted Mas several times over the past 3 years, including multiple sessions of the MAG-20 classroom course. I had missed out on taking the MAG-20 range course last year, and wanted to complete it, because finishing the full MAG-40 is required to take the MAG-80 course I will be hosting in May 2018.
Mas and I had recently spent time together at the 2017 Rangemaster Tactical Conference, where I attended his presentation on being an expert witness, and we shared a table at the instructor’s banquet. Mas shot very well at this year’s conference, placing in the top 10 out of more than 200 shooters. One thing that I greatly admire about him is that he continues to stay an active competitor in an era where many ‘celebrity’ trainers find excuses to avoid shooting for score. His schedule is as busy as anyone’s, his practice opportunities are often limited to shooting demonstration drills in classes, but he continues to compete and perform consistently well.
I’ve taken a lot of 2 day defensive handgun courses over the past 30 years. They all cover basically the same material: safe gunhandling, marksmanship fundamentals, presenting the gun quickly from ready and from the holster, two handed shooting, one handed shooting, malfunction clearing. Many of them have some type of graduation course of fire that must be passed with a minimum score. MAG-20 has all those things too. If you’ve never taken that type of 2 day course, MAG-20 is a good choice.
If you’ve taken similar courses from other trainers, here’s what I found interesting, unique and/or noteworthy about MAG-20:
Ayoob’s been teaching firearms courses since the 1970s, through that key period in history when pistol technique evolved from one handed point and bullseye shooting, to the two handed Weaver stance, Chapman’s variation on Weaver, and different forms of Isoceles. His Stressfire handgun book should be essential reading for any serious student of the pistol, particularly instructors, not only for its content but its historical value as a document of best practices and techniques that were dominant or emerging in the mid 1980’s.
As part of the MAG-20 course (and the shooting test) students are expected to use the Weaver, Chapman, and Isoceles stances. While Weaver and Chapman are less widely used or taught, learning them has value, particularly for instructors. This winter I developed some tendonitis in my left elbow that’s still not fully healed, and the most painful movement with my left arm is going to full extension. So while I normally shoot a fully extended Isoceles, using Weaver and Chapman, both of which don’t require full extension, was less painful during the 500 round class. And it’s always better to be able to recommend one technique over another from the position of having used the technique personally than simply dismissing it on the grounds that your favorite expert or guru doesn’t like it — whether you are an instructor or just a shooter.
Mas shares my interest in applying science, not just anecdote, to technique. His presentation on techniques for one handed shooter was excellent, with some great observations about the effects of sympathetic movement on grip strength – particularly the value of making a tight fist with the hand that’s not holding the gun, which produces an increase in grip strength in the gun hand. That effect occurs in two handed shooting as well, which is yet one more reason for people to grip the gun as hard as possible with the non-dominant hand.
Drills started at 4 yards and worked back to 10 and 15 yards, incorporating a wide stance cover-crouch position, single and double kneeling positions, and reloads.
All the material taught in the course showed up in the MAG shooting test, which is shot at standard speed in MAG-40. In higher level courses, the par times are cut in half. I had shot the test in practice in years past. The aspect that was absent from my practice runs was the pacesetter, shot by the instructors. Mas and the other instructors all shot the test for score in front of the students, with Mas and Tracy Thronburg shooting perfect 300 scores. Everyone that ties Mas’ score gets a signed $1 bill, anyone beating his score that day gets a signed $5. In the event of a tie, smallest group size wins.
So in practice, I was happy to hit all A’s on the IPSC target – but to beat Mas’ I was going to have to shoot all A’s with a group no larger than 4.5″ to match his impressive run. For this class he was using the new Wilson Combat EDC-X9 that he was evaluating for an upcoming article. Several of us got to handle and shoot the gun during the course, and he took some pics and collected some comments that may show up in the article he’s writing about it.
In the end, I shot a perfect score on the test, with a group that was 1/4″ bigger than Tracy’s, placing me 3rd overall. So she and I got signed $1 bills, and I got a gold MAG challenge coin as the top scoring student.
Class scores were excellent, with many scoring above 290 (96%) and everyone passing, well above the 225 minimum. He divided the class into two relays, each person putting $1 in the pot, with the top shooter getting the pot.
Relay 1’s Joel A (a KR Training grad who shot a very respectable 298 on the test) hands over the money, which I re-invested in the gatorade and soda fund to keep the fridge at the range stocked.
As part of the class, Mas had me present a short version of the results from my 2014-2015 red dot / green laser / iron sights study, which Gail recorded for an upcoming episode of their ProArms podcast. On Saturday, KR Training assistant instructor John Daub spoke to the class about his home defense incident, which Mas had written about for American Handgunner. Gail interviewed John for the ProArms podcast, and then on Sunday, she interviewed me about my Beyond the One Percent presentation, available in multiple parts on this blog. So there will be a lot of KR Training content coming up in the ProArms podcast over the next few months as they release those episodes.
I’ll be bringing Massad and Marty Hayes back winter 2018 for their Deadly Force Instructor course, and a MAG-80 in late spring 2018 also. KR Training will also offer a session of the two day MAG 20 range course prior to the MAG-80, so that students that have taken the MAG-20 classroom but need the range portion to complete the full MAG-40 can do so and be eligible to attend MAG-80.
If you haven’t had a chance to train with Mas, I encourage you to find a class and take advantage of his significant depth of knowledge, not just about shooting technique, but about every aspect of armed self defense.