Tactical Pistol Three

I guess it was only a matter of time before I decided to finish up the “Tactical Pistol” series offered by Tactical Firearms Academy (TFA). To be honest, I was purposely putting off taking this last class because all I heard was that the qualifiers were brutal. Yes, there are two qualifiers.

If you’ve taken the first two pistol classes, then the first qualifier for this class is exactly the same, except now you are doing it under time; just like the qualifier for the pistol two class. And I’ll be honest with you, I was a bit nervous. Only because I knew from my previous attempts, I barely passed it both times.

Going into this class, I pretty much mind-fucked myself from the get go. However, I was quite surprised that I passed the morning’s qualifier but disappointed that I didn’t do any better than the last time. Considering that the last pistol class that I took with TFA was in January 2014, I guess I should have scored a 100%. That is, if I had practiced my core fundamentals since then.

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An Overview of Tactical Pistol Three

Like any TFA course, before we started off with the safety brief, our instructor level set our expectations for this class as well as the mindset he wanted to depart on us after we complete the course. Unlike the previous classes, I will say that this one seemed to be a lot more “serious” in terms of mindset.

The other two previous class were really just different and they served really well as standalone classes. But to see where your potential can be or at, this class will challenge you beyond the trigger as in terms of skills development versus applicable skills. Cause when you get started on the drills, there were no hand holding here. Everyone was expected to perform and in which we did decently as a class.

The morning half of the class covered ground fighting, movement and of course, marksmanship/precision shooting.

The second half of the class seemed to introduced a light hint to “small team” tactics or working with other shooters. The takeaway from the afternoon exercise is really about learning how to communicate with someone else when you’re in the shit. So you just got to stay sharp and go with the flow; “improvise, adapt and overcome.”

Morning Class Drills

I can say that this class covered a lot of movement. There was nothing static about this class. We spent a lot of time covering the basics of moving and pivoting. And it was really interesting to see a technique that’s really quite simple, but yet complicated for me to execute. I was trying to fix myself to learning how to “move off the X”. If anything, that was the hardest part for me, guessing it was due to my years in martial arts learning to simply side step or pivot within my fighting stance. But to do it in terms of looking, moving, turning, drawing, and punching out; yeah I got called out a few times for being too slow. But I figure this is definitely learnable on my own time as well.

The first set of drills covered were the ground fighting techniques. And sure enough, I wasn’t expecting to be shooting in the supine position right after the qualifier. Yeah, after I loaded my entire belt with magazines for the qualifier. So I had a yard sale by the time I got up from the ground. Shooting from the supine position (in the center position) is probably one of the hardest drills for me. I’m sure for others, it might be easy. But considering my old injuries and my tactical flab, it can be challenging at times, in terms of physical abilities and not so much technique.

Despite my own limitations, it is an essential skill as well as a reminder that I need to get back in shape. It’s a reminder, just like in martial arts or any contact sport; there will be a time when you will end up on the ground. Learning how to deal with it now in class is better than having to figure it out when your life is on the line.

The second half of the morning drills were precision shooting. Surprisingly, I didn’t see the notorious bitch slapping DOT DRILL targets, but we did have a few three inch circles to shoot. Sure we were hitting steel the majority of the time, but of course it wouldn’t be a TFA class if you aren’t being punished with push-ups if you failed to hit the target precisely.

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Afternoon Class Drills

The afternoon portion of the class was really interesting. It was like a culmination of everything being all rolled up to one event; everything from Tactical Pistol One fundamentals to Tactical Pistol Two moving and shooting from retention. Of course, knowing TFA, there was always something interesting in the drills.

The early afternoon drill consisted of moving across the range, shooting at different points of cover and in various positions. But that’s not the monkey wrench. Somewhere along in the middle of this, one of us randomly will be tagged as the wounded man. So we had to apply a tourniquet and continue the fight. Ironically, there was no buddy-aid.

However, if you really don’t know how to use a tourniquet, it was up to you to call for help. Just like the instructor said, “…in life, no one is going to help you. You have to help yourself…

If that wasn’t confusing enough, imagine having the entire class moving and criss crossing each other while shooting at the same time; as you are putting on your tourniquet. Then you have to get back into the fight once your tourniquet is on!

Of course, not everyone was fast at hitting their targets. Some was slow. Some didn’t have good fundamentals. At times, during the rotation, it caused us, as a group, to bunch up behind the same cover.

This forced us to utilize another skill set called “communication”. And I tell you what, that was very important to remedy the problem of us bunching up.

I think the biggest lesson here is really knowing your surroundings. Sure, we were all shooting in the same direction. But being introduced to a sort-of “disruptive” environment like this and having someone coming into your box while you’re shooting, it can be a little surprising at times.

I walked away from this drill wondering, if this were an active shooter scenario and I found myself with a few concealed carrying citizens, how would I act? How would we act? Are we all on the same level in terms of skills, mindset, and purpose? Is it a one team one fight mindset? Or is it every man for himself? That is a question that no one can really answer here.

The last drill we did, before the final qualifier, was a restaurant scenario in dealing with multiple active shooters. The drill varied by working with one other shooter to three other shooters. Either way, it was a good drill on problem solving quickly. We had to quickly figure out what was going down and where we needed to go. And we had to do it quick cause the instructor didn’t give us more than 30 seconds to lay out our “counter attack”.

So if we go back to the morning drills of moving and pivoting and drawing, this is where you will see the application of it.

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What to Expect for Success

There were a few students who managed to sign-up for all three pistol classes within a year’s time (I think it was under seven months for a new shooter). Ironically, when I hard started, that was my same goal. Until I realized after my first pistol class how horrible of a shooter that I was. I was really green and knew nothing. While everyone is different, the new shooters did fairly well in this class. However, one of them did struggle a little with their marksmanship and weapon manipulation at times.

Honestly, there’s really no rush in trying to take all three classes in such a short amount of time. Unless you’re Travis Costa, there’s no way for you, as a new shooter, to be able to apply speed and marksmanship in this class, as well as performing weapon manipulation, and still be able to take away the absolute core teachings here.

So my real advice here, for anyone looking to take this class, is to really be squared away with your fundamentals. Looking back, I’m actually glad that I spaced out all three of these classes by a year’s time. And in between that, I was able to work on fundamentals and other skills building techniques. Cause if you’re busy doing push ups in class or goat roping yourself because you can’t manipulate your gun correctly, then you’re really shorting yourself from learning the actual material.

Additionally, what has helped greatly is also attending some of TFA’s workshops and events. In my opinion, this class felt like a Thursday night workshop TFA puts on. Except, it was longer. Much more intense. But felt very familiar. And I think that’s mainly because TFA set that same standards for both their classes and practice/training workshops.

The less time you spend on trying to hit the target, the more time you are able to think and learn about the real world applications that are being taught.

Finally, don’t let the qualifiers and the certificates get you bogged down. Sure, who doesn’t want the certificate? Still, I think just taking the class is much more valuable than that piece of paper. However, if you really want that certificate, then get your fundamentals squared away; that includes shooting with weapon hand, reaction hand, single hand for both left and right. Oh yeah, do it under time.

By the way, I noticed that we were not using the standard “Blue Smurf (B21)” targets. The one we were using had a nice big red dot in the center. If you asked me, that’s kind of cheating. Then again, is it still cheating if you still failed the qualifier?

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On a side note…

Well, it wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t honestly address the impact of competition shooting. Spending at least two years shooting pistol and multigun matches, did it helped me or hurt me? Honestly, it was a little of both. The benefit obviously from competition shooting is that you shoot more as you continue to work on your fundamentals. It helped with dealing with timed events, but hurt me with some of the “tactical” techniques – like ammo management and having that “180 degree barrier” mindset.

But I honestly have to say that doing competition shooting allowed me to get comfortable shooting and moving and drawing from concealment. So if you want to break away from the flat range, then I definitely recommend consider using competitive shooting as a supplement to your training, not as training replacement.

The Takeaways

Overall, I thought this was the best of the three pistol classes taught by TFA. This class was actually what I had wanted when I signed up for my first Tactical Pistol One class. But I can see and appreciate why I needed the other two classes before taking this class.

What was great about completing this entire pistol series was that I had the same watchful instructor (Mr. Blaschik) since I started. So he saw me started out as a horrible shooter to now becoming just a bad shooter.

Alright in reality, I’m not that bad. But I know my place on the food chain to know that I’m not an expert either. I say that because I know that every time I step on and off the range, I still have so much to learn and so much to work on; because my goals and sense of purpose is much different from yours and everyone else on that range and in life.

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If there’s anything to take away from this is class, it’s really not about shooting the gun. That was the first two classes. Rather this last class begins to touch on how to really fight with your gun. Because of the dynamics of this class, I think it would be really beneficial to see this class being taught also as an advanced concealed carry course. But sadly, this is the last pistol class that TFA offers. And while this may be the last class, it’s also the beginning of a different brand new skill sets waiting to be developed. Where you go from here is up to you.

With that said, I also feel that this class introduced a lot of perishable skill sets.

Skill sets that you can’t really practice anywhere. Seriously, what range is going to let me run and move in any direction? What range is going to let me have three or more shooters on the same course of fire slinging lead? As far as I know, none; but again, at least competitive shooting will give you some sort of latitude with moving and shooting; even if it’s limited.

On a final note, we did have several long time students who took this class more than twice and they didn’t care for the certificate. It was more about doing the drills and reenforcing the skills. So if you didn’t get your certificate the first time around, then you can try for it again when you come back for the refresher course.

Which of course, I will be doing that myself.