28 April 2013

It's Not Enough To Take Just One Class

While I shoot year-round now, the "start" of my season is the same as for many other people - early spring. From my last post, you know that I kicked this year off with a (ahem) bang, at the A Girl & A Gun National Conference. Just a few weeks after, I had the fantastic opportunity to host and assist with a Cornered Cat Defensive Handgun for Women class. An interview published last year talks quite a bit about the class itself, so I wanted to offer a slightly different perspective.

Kathy Jackson's class wasn't the first time I've been in a defensive shooting class...or, for that matter, the first time I've taught defensive shooting skills. Competitive shooting is most of what I do with my time on the range, but I believe that quality training of any type is a good thing because every instructor will bring a different focus to the firing line. Focused rounds down range that refine technique and skill will always be a net positive in some way whether you want to win your next match, be able to use a firearm effectively in a defensive situation, or just have more fun at the range. Having that experience with an experienced instructor will give you an outside eye to objectively assess what you doing wrong (and right!) and provide you with new skills and drills. Some of you may be very disciplined when you go to the range in coming up with and practicing even the things you don't like or aren't good at, and using video and a critical eye to assess your shortcomings. For myself, I find being in classes are a good way to spot-check my progress and to push myself to do things I might not try or perfect otherwise (*cough* shooting with taped up sights...). And being able to do it in a training setting can be a good way to get comfortable with a skill before you are under increased stress from a timer or from an attacker. With the current difficulties in getting ammo, I also find that making my range time more intentional means that I don't feel like I'm just throwing money down the barrel.

I especially like to think of classes and coaching as ways to keep filling my toolbox. For example, Kathy teaches a thumb over thumb grip technique that's not like one I've ever really used. I don't shoot a revolver (with the attendant potential problems of cylinder gap), and my hands aren't sized so that straight thumbs can extend past the muzzle on a micro-pistol, so I've generally ignored the grip as an option. Hearing her rationale behind it helped build it as a better tool in my toolbox. I may use it myself in the future, pass it on to one of my own students, or even just use that rationale to help me articulate why I'm not using it or recommending it in a specific situation. All of those outcomes are valuable, sometimes particularly the latter one. Not every technique or drill is right for every person or situation, but it's good not only to have options but to know and be able to justify why one is better than another at a specific combination of individual and moment. Becoming thoughtful about your shooting in this way will help you solidify your confidence in what you're doing behind the gun. And that self-confidence is what will make you a more beautiful, better shooter over time.