I recently attended and successfully completed Gabe White‘s Pistol Shooting Solutions course hosted by KR Training. This was the most demanding and advanced pistol shooting course I’ve taken to date. Throughout the intense two days I found myself out of my comfort zone and pushing beyond what I thought were the limits of my capabilities. Yet, it was fun and left with an improved mindset towards training along with some training techniques that I firmly believe will help me as I continue to improve my pistol handling skills.
I first heard of Gabe White and his Pistol Shooting Solutions course about a year and a half ago while watching some YouTube videos on the Active Self Protection Extra channel. The videos intrigued me and a bit of research sold me on looking for an opportunity to attend after I felt I had achieved a sufficient level of pistol proficiency to get the most out of the course. This all happened about six months after I had started shooting IDPA matches and was working on leveling up my pistol handling skills. By happenstance late in 2019 while attending a tactical pistol and rifle course, the instructor, Sean Hoffman, made some references to things he learned from Gabe White. After the course I asked for his opinion on my readiness to attend Gabe’s class. With Sean’s positive affirmation, a warning about the class’ difficulty level, and a tip that KR Training had Gabe on their schedule and had a few seats available, I signed up for it.
I must admit that I considered cancelling my registration on more than one occasion as the scheduled course date approached. Knowing full well this was a higher level course than I had previously attended in addition to decreased live fire trigger time this year while nebleticing dry practice way more than I should have, I worried that my skills would be too rusty to keep up with the class. I fought back the urge to cancel and instead put in a bit more trigger time as the class approached albeit not as much trigger time as I would have liked to. Regardless, I’m glad I didn’t cancel and strongly feel that I got a ton out the course.
Gabe White’s Pistol Shooting Solutions course is a 2 day course covering the following:
– Efficient draw strokeTaken directly from the Pistol Shooting Solutions course description
– Shot calling
– Driving the gun on single and multiple targets (shooting mechanics)
– Full spectrum shooting on the move (controlled and dynamic movement)
– Shooting on the move competitive exercises
– Foreground and background mitigation
– Ready position presentations
– Basic and advanced use of cover
– Use of cover competitive exercises
– Technical Skills Testing
– Effective dry practice
Gabe White‘s qualifications as an accomplished shooter and trainer are impressive to say the least. His reputation also precedes him. Every review I read of Gabe White’s course and the one person I met who received instruction from Gabe had nothing but positive things to say. Additionally, Gabe White and this class in particular appear to attract accomplished and highly skilled pistol shooters. To be completely honest, as a relatively new shooter I was a bit intimidated by all of this and was still concerned I was attempting to bite off more than I could chew with this course, even after receiving positive affirmation that I was ready.
I was very pleasantly surprised to learn that even with his qualifications and providing instruction to accomplished shooters, Gabe is a very personable and humble human being. Without a doubt Gabe knows what he is doing with a pistol, but it’s crystal clear he is deeply passionate about teaching and helping students reach their next level of proficiency with a pistol. Gabe is a highly analytical individual, an effective communicator, and at times a bit of a goofball. I found these qualities to make Gabe an excellent instructor.
On the range, Gabe went to great lengths to maintain a very high level of safety. That’s something that any instructor worth their salt must do. I only point this out because there wasn’t a single moment when safety became a concern for me even though we ran some very dynamic and intense drills. Even though the class was difficult and fast paced, it was structured very well and presented in a manner that allowed students to rehydrate between the “modules” that consisted of instruction, demonstration, application, and testing. It was an excellent flow.
Inevitably, folks end up asking what gear I used for the course. So here it is:
- Gun: Heckler & Koch VP9 with a Trijicon RMR
- Holster: G-Code Incog Eclipse IWB holster on my strong side
- Mag pouches: Concealment Solutions Venom Magazine Carrier x3
- Belt: Concealment Solutions 1.5″ Python Gun Belt (Horsehide)
- Ammo: Blazer Brass 9mm Luger 124gr
I estimate that 90% of the course time was spent at the range. The other 10% was in the classroom which included an initial range safety brief and course introduction at the beginning of day one and a short conclusion consisting of awarding certificates and pins at the end of day two.
I can’t emphasize enough that this course was extremely demanding both physically and mentally. We covered so much over the course of the two days that I realize I am a bit fuzzy in recalling all of the details and order in which some of the drills and discussions took place. It’s a bit of blur. Regardless, I’m going to attempt to recount what we did to the best of my ability.
Day one started in the classroom at 8am sharp. The classroom portion consisted of a range safety brief followed by introductions. A class supplement was provided to help students recall important concepts covered in the course at a later date and to relax the student’s need to take notes and maximize the students ability to engage in the course. The class philosophy, a brief review of safe gun handling practices and basic mechanics were covered. Gabe then introduced the class “side quests”, as he called them, where a patch or pins could be earned by students. The patch could be earned by winning one of the four head to head competition drills that would take place as part of the curriculum. The pins could be earned by meeting a high level of performance on four out of the eight timed tests that would take place (details on times required to be awarded a pin are available here). The time in the classroom was brief and we spent the rest of the day on the range.
The very first thing we did when we got out to the range was set up the relays that we would stick with for the remainder of the course. This was followed by practicing how the firing line would be managed as the range went from hot to cold. I’m a bit fuzzy on the order and details of things that followed immediately after before we got to the meat and potatoes of the course. However, it consisted of some warm up drills and dry practice on the standard IPSC/USPSA targets we would be working with for most of the course. These initial drills allowed Gabe to see the skill level of each student and know what he was working with.
With the warm up and basics out of the way, we began working on the first of the four technical shooting drills presented in this course, the Bill drill at a distance of 7 yards. For those of you not familiar with the Bill drill it consists of placing six rounds in the center of mass (or the high thoracic cavity) of the target as quickly as possible. Given we were working with a standard IPSC target, we were aiming for A-zone hits.
Prior to starting work on the Bill drill, Gabe took a moment to describe two modes of practice: pushing practice and on-demand practice. Pushing practice consists of running the drill in a manner that pushes the shooter to the edge of the skill limits and perhaps a little beyond it, but not to the point where shooting becomes unsafe. The idea is to shoot is like one would like to shoot it. This may result in a few hits outside of the A-zone, but provides an opportunity to develop a faster draw or a quicker trigger press. It also provides an opportunity to self diagnose mechanics that are leading to non A-zone hits.
The concept of pushing practice reminded me of what some of the top shooters at IDPA matches said to me as I sought advice, “if you are shooting a stage clean (meaning all A-zone hits) then you aren’t pushing hard enough.” Or, “a clean run is an indicator to open up the throttle some more.” Conversely, they would say “misses and -3 zone hits indicate you are pushing too hard and need to slow down.” Or, “too many points down mean you have to pump the brakes.” The advice of slowing down leads me to one of the key points I took away from Gabe. Gabe doesn’t like the idea of “slowing down” because it suggests that slowing down is the solution to make better shots and obscures the opportunity to diagnose and correct the mechanics that are preventing the A-zone hits. I like his advice better, “don’t slow down, fix it.”
On-demand practice is intended to maintain the skill level. It’s not about going “slower” rather it’s about performing the drill while paying more attention and giving more care to the mechanics. The additional attention and care results in a slower drill time. That might seem like we are simply playing with semantics, but it’s not. It’s about the mindset while practicing. The mindset of paying more attention puts a person in tune with the task at hand – making only good hits as fast as possible. It focuses the mind on mechanics instead of focusing the mind on blazing speed. The difference is subtle, but it had a significant impact on how the practice felt.
After covering those concepts, Gabe demonstrated the drill in both a pushing practice and on-demand practice before the students went to the line and did the same thing. The pushing and on-demand practice of the drills were followed by two timed runs. That was followed by the first two timed and scored technical skill tests which could lead towards earning of the possible pins.
The Bill drill time for a Turbo Pin (the highest level possible) run was 2 seconds, a Light Pin run was 2.5 seconds, and Dark Pin was 3.5 seconds. My first time was 4.57 seconds and the second time 5.23 seconds after penalties and bonuses. My raw times which were less than 4 seconds but more than 3.5 seconds would have been insufficient to meet the performance standard for a dark pin. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed. Yes, I was having a bad day with my arthritis. However, the truth is that I knew it was my fault for letting my skills get rusty (as I mentioned earlier) and I was playing catch up. Oh well, I ate my slice of humble pie and moved on.
Next up was started working on first shooting while moving exercise. This consisted of drawing while sidestepping and then shooting the target. This was the first of several tactical drills we worked on. The idea behind this drill was to move just enough to create an acceptable bullet trajectory path to eliminate a threat. This may take the form a non-threat between the defender and the threat or a non-threat being directly behind the threat. In either scenario, the defender has to move to and avoid sweeping the non-threat with the muzzle before sending lead at the threat.
Just like the previous exercise block, it started with some discussion about the exercise. The discussion was followed by a demonstration from Gabe which was followed by students getting to work. The drills were followed by the first head to head challenge of the class.
The head to head challenge consisted of one student initiating the challenge by drawing and taking a shot at a steel target that was half the distance of the target the other student would shoot. The other student started with the gun drawn at the low ready and taking a shot at the further of two steel targets. The first student to ring steel after the challenge was initiated won the challenge and received the Aim Patch.
I was one of the first students to attempt the challenge head to head against Sean Hoffman. The same Sean Hoffman who was my instructor at the Red Dot Pistol Essentials course and the Tactical Pistol and Rifle course. He initiated the challenge and took on the closer target and I reacted and took aim at the further target. Sean destroyed me on this challenge and earned his patch. I ate another slice of humble pie and got back in line to attempt the challenge again.
The challenge continued on for some time as students got back in line after each challenge attempt while switching positions between being the initiator and being the reactor in the challenge. By the end of the challenge everyone in the class had earned their patch.
The next block of instruction focused on the second technical drill: the failure to stop drill performed at 7 yards. This drill is also known as the Mozambique drill. The drill consists of taking two shots to the center of mass and then one shot to the head box. The same flow repeated with Gabe providing some discussion on the drill and a demonstration in both pushing and on-demand practice modes before the students got to work. The work was followed by two timed practice runs and then the two time runs for score towards the pin awards.
The failure to stop drill time for a Turbo Pin run was 1.7 seconds, a Light Pin run was 2.25 seconds, and Dark Pin was 2.9 seconds. My first time was a dark pin run of 2.78 seconds and the second time 3.53 seconds after penalties and bonuses. Both raw times were good enough for dark pin runs. The difference was the first run had a B-zone penalty while the second had a D-zone hit which on a headshot is treated as a miss. This time the humble pie slice was a small one. I was really happy with having one dark pin run under my belt.
The last block of the day consisted of another movement drill. In this drill, we moved in a figure eight around two barrels while engaging a target that was in close proximity to two non-threats. This simulated a scenario in which a defender may have to move in space with a large number of obstacles and non-threats between the defender and the threat, such as a restaurant.
The class ended around 6:30 PM with another head-to-head challenge. The details of which I can’t recall as I’m writing this. I’m not sure if this was a result of the physical and mental exertion from the day or simply just information overload. Most likely a combination of both.
At some point in the day, again with fuzzy recollection, we worked on “calling our shots”. This consisted of taking slow precision shots at our targets at a distance of about 25 yards. Far enough where one can’t rely on the hole in the target to confirm the shot placement. Between each shot fired, we placed a small white inventory sticker on an unused target held up by a fellow classmate slightly behind us on the support side. In my opinion, the goal of this exercise was two fold. First was to show us that one is able to call their shots without relying on holes on the target for confirmation. This is important because in the real world the holes will be concealed by clothing and a defender can’t afford to spend time between shots while neutralizing a threat. The second goal, which seemed painfully obvious, is that calling your own shots by tracking (or reading) the sights (or red dot) during live fire is difficult and will require a lot of practice. The difficulty arises from the fact that we only have a fraction of a second to register the sight movement before the pistol recoils upward. However, this is the exact same diagnostic technique one can use during dry practice. It’s just a technique that has to be done very quickly to effectively call a shot during live fire.
While this is only the second two-day course I’ve attended, the second day started very much as expected – a struggle to get out of bed. The exertion from the day before hadn’t passed. No matter though, I dragged myself out of bed, got a larger than usual coffee and headed back to class. The training began promptly at 8AM on the range.
The training started with the third technical drill: immediate stop. This drill consists of drawing the pistol and placing two shots immediately in the head box. This technique is applicable in situations where failing to immediately incapacitate the threat can lead to instantaneously grave consequences. It’s also applicable in situations where the threat’s larger upper thoracic cavity is behind cover or armor. I’ll spare you from reading my repetition of Gabe’s flow, which was predictably consistent.
The immediate stop drill time requirements for a Turbo Pin run was 2 seconds, a Light Pin run was 2.5 seconds, and Dark Pin was 3 seconds. My first time was a dark pin run of 2.57 seconds – almost in Light Pin territory which likely played with my head before the second attempt. The second time 3.45 seconds after penalties and bonuses. Even though I choked on the second attempt, I was pretty stoked that I tested better on this drill compared to the failure to stop. It’s a harder drill and having better times on it felt pretty good. I’ll also admit that my hope of leaving the class with a pin was dwindling quickly. At the same time, the despair that was replacing the hope lit a fire under me and I used that to refocus on the last technical drill.
It was during this technical timed test that Michael Green, President of Green-Ops, Inc. (which is a firearms training company), earned the 20th Turbo Pin to ever be awarded by completing his fourth timed and scored drill that met or exceeded the time requirements for a Turbo Pin. Michael was a beast on the firing line and was an amazing classmate. I wish I would have had more time to watch him shoot closely, but I was too busy trying to retain all of the material, stay hydrated, and keeping the magazines topped off.
The technical block was followed by a shooting on the run movement drill. This was the first drill where I doubted if I would be able to perform adequately. I also found this drill to be one of the funnest drills in the course. It may even have been my favorite. The drill was conducted with one student at a time because we were literally running back and forth down the firing line. This wasn’t a “tactical run” or “a measured run” one would use in a competition. This was an “if I don’t get off the X, I’m going to die” kind of run. Gabe worked with each of us on the footwork and developing a safe draw stroke before starting with some dry practice. The draw stroke when breaking into a run direction of the dominant hand requires extra muzzle discipline to maintain proper muzzle discipline. Drawing normally results in sweeping the thigh with the muzzle as one starts turning the gun towards the target while reaching the retention position. Waiting for full retention before turning towards the target creates the possibility of sweeping non threats with the muzzle. I found the right draw for me, based on my gun and strong side holster position, was to get the muzzle into a low ready angle before starting to turn towards the target. This got the muzzle high enough to not sweep my thigh but kept it pointed at the ground as the gun was turned towards the target.
During the short ten yard or so sprint, I was only able to fire one round into the target. This is because reptilian style (Gabe’s terminology) shooting is unacceptable. A self defender can’t under any circumstances send a volley of lead and hope that a couple result in good hits. This is also referred to as spray and pray style shooting. Remembering that we are responsible for every bang and accountable for every hit, we have to use a mammalian approach and take the necessary time to produce one or two trigger presses which result in acceptable hits. I was surprised to see that most of my hits were well centered A zone hits with a couple of well centered C zone flyers (slightly high). All of the technical work completed like reading and tracking the sights and developing a faster smoother draw was coming together.
We completed another head-to-head challenge, the details of which I also can’t recall, before starting the final technical block with the split Bill drill. The drill consists of drawing the gun placing four shots in the high thoracic cavity and the two shots in the head box. The only thing this drill has in common with the Bill is that it consists of six shots. It’s like starting a Bill drill and then changing to an immediate stop drill after the fourth shot. I actually found this drill to have more in common with the failure to stop drill since it’s exactly the same zone sequence with double the round count. Regardless of how one looks at the drill, the demo, practice and test flow remained the same.
The split Bill drill time requirements for a Turbo Pin run was 2.6 seconds, a Light Pin run was 3.5 seconds, and Dark Pin was 4.7 seconds. My first time was a solid middle of the read dark pin run of 4.37 seconds. The second time 5.3 seconds after penalties and bonuses. I was bummed after realizing I would be concluding the course without finishing the side quest, but honestly it wasn’t an easy quest to complete and I wasn’t the only one who would leave without a pin. The other folks who didn’t earn a pin were also very solid shooters. One interesting pattern than I noticed after looking at my scores is that I performed better on the first run of every timed and scored drill. I’m not sure what that was about. Perhaps it was just coincidence, but it was a pattern I found interesting.
The final movement component dealt with barriers, or cover. This was the most complex of the movement components and, as a result, required more discussion than other modules in the course. The complexity isn’t a result of any difficult concepts, rather it’s a function on a multitude of simple concepts that work together. As a result, the vast number of permutations require a defender to keep track of a lot of moving parts. Perhaps the most important thing I took away is the realization that cover has a duality to it. It is both an asset and a liability. It is an asset because it stops bullets and can therefore keep you alive and reduce the chance of injury. However, that safety comes at the cost of reduced visibility and hence reduced situational awareness.
There were a number of different drills that we ran to cover many aspects of working with barriers. The drills included, but were not limited to, changing the elevation or sides of shooting positions, moving along the barrier to deal with threat movement, and techniques for presenting the gun from the barrier to minimize sight obstructions. The idea behind the drill was to use everything available to gain an advantage over a threat. One of the most eye opening things was how much shot placement suffered when working with barriers. This was likely due to the fact that one had to keep a much larger number of things in mind to avoid letting the threat gain an advantage that less brain cycles were available to process the details of the technical shooting mechanics. In my opinion, working with cover was one of the more interesting topics covered in the course.
We closed out our time at the range with a final head-to-head challenge. In this challenge one student had the option to run from one barrier to another to create a shot opportunity at an exposed threat that would have otherwise been almost completely behind cover should the defender attempt to engage the threat directly from the starting barrier. The other student took the opposite role where they stayed stationary behind one barrier while shooting at five targets simulating a threat that was attempting to envelop the defender by moving from one barrier to another; the first and last targets in the sequence were only partially exposed by the two barriers. It was a fun and exciting challenge to close out the range time with.
The course was concluded with a brief awarding of completion certificates along with earned pins. All twelve students received their completion certificate. Five students were awarded a dark pin. One student, Daniel Martin, who is the owner of High Standard Tactical (another firearms training school), was awarded a Light Pin. One student, Michael Green (who I mentioned earlier), was awarded a Snow Leopard Turbo Pin. Fun fact, there are five different Turbo Pin designs a student can pick from.
My exact round count for this course was 825 rounds.
I’ve said this a few times now, this has been the most demanding training course I’ve attended so far. It’s quite possibly the one I’ve learned the most from as well. It’s definitely a course that lives up to the hype and one that I highly recommend to any shooter who has already developed sound safe gun handling fundamentals.
The best way I can describe this course is as an advanced pistol shooting course that takes components of competitive shooting game theory and applies them to practical self defense technical skills and tactics. This class added several dry fire drills (which I plan to cover in more detail in future posts) and live fire drills that will help me improve and advance my ability to self diagnose my shooting skills and will therefore help me improve my shooting ability faster and better than ever before.
As I’m concluding this after action report, I still find myself in disbelief as I realize as I was classmates with several folks whom I’ve received instruction from or could benefit from receiving instruction from. It was quite a privilege to be a fellow classmate among all of the other students and meet all of them. I’d like to give all of them shoutouts, but I won’t in order to respect their privacy. I will give a few shoutouts to classmates who gave me permission to do so:
- First shoutout goes to Michael Green! Dude was a beast with his pistol and shared some great stories from his time serving in Special Forces. If you happen to be in the market for some firearms training, then I suggest checking out Green Ops and checking out their training schedule. They offer many courses regularly in the North Virginia area and will be adding regular course offerings in the San Antonio area soon. Their courses are also hosted at other training facilities throughout the United States.
- Shout out to Daniel Martin! Daniel rocked the pistol as well. Not only was he friendly, but he also let me pick his brain a bit regarding medical skills. Also suggest checking out High Standard Tactical and their training courses if you happen to be in the market for some firearms training near Bryan, Texas.
- Shout out to Sean Hoffman, owner of Carry the Day (a firearms training company I’ve received training from) and an instructor at KR Training (a firearms training company I’ve also received training from). I happen to think both firearms training companies have some great courses available ideal for folks in the Central Texas area.
- Last but not least, I’ve got to give a shoutout to Gabe New, owner of KSG Armory. This other Gabe, who was a pin earner, makes some really solid full Kydex holsters. His holsters were put to the test in this course by a couple of students. I’m secretly hoping he decides to send me one or two to test and review, but if he doesn’t I’m likely to end up picking one or two up anyway.
I can’t recommend Gabe White’s Pistol Shooting Solutions course enough. The class was well worth the money, the effort, the time, and the ammo. I have absolutely zero reservations to recommend this course to shooters of all levels that meet the course prerequisites. If you are interested in taking this course, then keep an eye on Gabe’s course schedule and sign up as soon as you see one you can attend. His classes fill out fast. I’m keeping an eye on the schedule myself as I want another go at a pin.
Categories: Self Defense