Surgical Speed Shooting Summit AAR Part 2 (June 2022)

I was honored to be invited to be one of the guest instructors for the Surgical Speed Shooting Summit, run by SureFire’s Andy Stanford at the Tactical Response facility in Camden, Tennessee.

This is Part 2 of my AAR. Part one is here.

American Combat Shooting Club

Back in 1988, when I naively volunteered to be Club Secretary for our local USPSA club, an old shooter advised me “people with guns shouldn’t form clubs”. My experiences serving as an officer in several other clubs in the next decade showed me that he was right.

Andy inducted all the invited trainers into his American Combat Shooting Club on Thursday during the Summit. I’m not sure what his plans for the club are, but since it’s set up as a benevolent dictatorship, I’m happy to be member if there are no dues or committees.

My Notes

Thursday Andy talked about the history of handgun training, and noted that Ken Hackathorn was the first to leave Gunsite and become a traveling trainer. He mentioned Chuck Taylor, Michael Harries and Clint Smith as other Gunsite instructors from the early days that were important figures in training history.

Andy defined two eras of Jeff Cooper’s work: 1961-1965 – the Big Changes era, when the core ideas came into being, and 1965-1982, when there were few changes to what Cooper and his acolytes were teaching.

Andy taught us his breathing approach for slow fire pistol marksmanship: in through the nose, slack out of trigger. Out through the mouth, press the trigger as you exhale.

He described the focus of his interest in training as working to instruct the “Barely Trainable” to the “Almost Self-Motivated”. That describes many gun owners, including many that attend most of the training courses offered by traveling trainers. Competition shooters and instructors tend to be more self-motivated. At the bottom end, below “barely trainable”, are the once-a-year-or-less shooters that are usually family members of gun enthusiasts. These are the folks that don’t like shooting, don’t really want to apply themselves to getting better at it, are never going to carry, and at best can be trained to point shoot a target at 3 yards, keeping their hits in the 8 ring or better of a B-27.

He discussed Tom Givens’ 3 speeds of shooting: Quickly, Carefully, and Precisely, and how those concepts relate back to quality of sight picture and speed of trigger press.

John Holschen contributed his thoughts on trigger control, using the phrases “get on it”, “ease through it” and “get off it”. I intend to try those phrases out with students in an upcoming class to see if they resonate more with students than what I say now.

Andy discussed the Jim Cirillo standard (which is also a drill Ken Hackathorn is credited with inventing), which is 1 head shot on 3 separate targets (3 shots total), in 3 seconds starting with gun concealed and holstered.

On Friday, during presentations by other trainers, I made these notes:

Claude Werner pointed out that a Glock 19 is the same weight as a can of soup, and as large as a box of Grape Nuts cereal. His point was that for those new to carrying, even the Glock 19 seems like a large, heavy gun. Claude is one of the few trainers really focused on working with smaller guns, including guns in calibers less than .380, as viable carry options for people with regular jobs. His concern is that too many firearms trainers exist in a world where being “made” for carrying has little/no consequence. Most people outside the firearms industry often have to weigh the risks of carrying against employer policies, where being caught carrying might not only end their employment with that firm, but result in significant difficulty finding a new job in that field if their reason for dismissal was shared with future employers.

John Holschen discussed the importance of learning to shoot moving targets, particularly targets moving in realistic ways, for example the target only begins moving after the shooter begins to draw.

John referenced Mike Wilkerson’s PhD dissertation on vision and shooting in his talk. (I am working to track down a copy of this work.)

Someone (apologies for not noting who it was) cited Thomas Sowell’s observation that in reality, there are “no solutions, only tradeoffs”. That statement applies to many different aspects of defensive shooting and particularly to technique.

John Hearne shared a great tip about replacing the bottom two buttons on your carry shirt with sewed on buttons (false buttons) and snaps. I actually went to Hobby Lobby upon my return from the Summit and purchased some snaps to try on a few of my favorite carry shirts.

Greg Ellifritz cited Beasley’s Hand Surgery manual as his source for the claim that losing your little finger can cause a 33% (or more) reduction in grip strength. This article discusses the issue in more detail.

The role of the little finger in proper pistol grip is significant. A lot of popular subcompact guns only have 3-finger frames, needing a pinky shelf magazine to provide a place for the pinky finger to grip the pistol. Unfortunately the 3-finger frame is an impediment to good dry fire practice (because the gun can’t be easily racked to reset the trigger with the empty pinky shelf magazine inserted) and quick reloads, because the pinky finger has to be moved away from the mag opening to eject and insert a magazine. The 3-finger frame pistols are popular with untrained, carry permit level gun buyers, but 4 finger length guns like the Glock 43X/48 or SIG 365XL are more popular as small carry guns with higher level shooters.

Lee Weems discussed the “holster ready” position, which is hand on the holstered gun. He explained that for most people, a draw to first shot time from “holster ready” is 0.5-1.0, with an average of 0.75, with the biggest variation in draw time caused by moving the concealment garment and establishing the grip. That tracks with my own observations in coaching students and instructors in improving their draw technique and speed.

More from the Range

Claude Werner, the Tactical Professor, ran everyone through a dry fire program using scaled targets and a live fire drill (with full size targets) for the LAPD Retired Officer’s qualification course. Claude’s version was a little more difficult than a version run on a B-27 target, though.

Claude Werner demonstrating ultra close range, tiny scaled target dry fire
Claude’s dry fire target
My live fire target on Claude’s drill

Allan McBee used his “Three Stooges” drill in his block. Start with 5 in the gun. Draw and shoot a close big target with 3 rounds, shoot a target half that size with 2 rounds, reload and shoot a very small target with 1 round.

Here’s video of students shooting the drill.

Michael Green with James Yeager

James Yeager made an appearance at the Sunday afternoon wrapup, where all of the instructors and attendees each stated at least one thing they learned from the weekend. I was honored that several of the attendees mentioned things I had covered in my sessions were their takeaways. Andy, who also performs and records as Whitey Winchester, entertained us with Gringo Pistolero, Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner and a few other songs on accordion, before switching to guitar and playing us one of his newest songs.

Many thanks to Andy Stanford for putting this together, and to everyone at Tactical Response for being a great host of this unique and excellent event!