Self Defense

KR Training Defensive Pistol Skills 3

My after action report of KR Training's Defensive Pistol Skills 3 course, the third and final class that focuses on defensive pistol use at close distances, which is only a subset of skills and tactics covered by their defensive pistol program.

One short week after taking KR Training’s Advanced Training 2 Force on Force Scenarios and Low Light Shooting 1, I returned to take Defensive Pistol Skills 3 (DPS-3) which is another course in KR Training’s Defensive Pistol Skills Program. This course builds on top of the skills taught in DPS-1 and DPS-2 with an emphasis on movement, one handed shooting, multiple targets, and getting out of the holster faster. Like DPS-2, this course also requires passing the KR Training Three Seconds or Less drill with higher standards in order to graduate. Students also take NRA CCW class shooting and written tests.

The class was led by Karl Rehn who was assisted by John Daub, Greg Howard, and another assistant instructor whose name I failed to note and can’t recall. There were fifteen students attending including myself bringing the student to instructor ratio to just under four to one. All of the students present previously completed DPS-2 and met the DPS-2 qualification test standards. Several students including myself were one additional course shy of completing the Defensive Pistol Skills program.

Gear wise, I didn’t make any changes. It was the exact same set up I used for the DPS-2 course with the exception of the ammunition used:

With the preamble out of the way, let’s get into the course details.

The class started in the classroom with the typical and expected safety briefing. Immediately after the briefing, we headed out to the range to where the majority of the class was held. Just like all of the other courses I’ve taken at KR training, the students were assigned to one of two relays allowing half the students to shoot while the other half reloaded, hydrated, and reapplied sunblock as the drills for the day progressed.

The first set of drills were based on the NRA CCW program. Students faced a target at a distance of five yards and followed the range commands to slowly work through the process of drawing and fire a single shot on the target. The command sequence began with Grip which instructed the students to establish a strong hand firing grip on the pistol while it remained in the holster. This was followed by the Pull command which instructed the students to pull the gun from the holster and rotate it down range while maintaining an index from the chest. This is commonly referred to as the retention position. The next command was Join which indicated students establish a two hand grip while keeping the pistol close to the chest. The final command was Extend which meant to extend the arms, establish a sight picture and break a single shot on the target. This drill was a good warm up and also helped the students familiarize themselves with the terminology used in the NRA CCW program which would be used in the written test later in the day.

The next set of drills felt like a quick review of the skills developed in DPS-1 and DPS-2. One drill consisted of drawing and shooting a target with 1-3 rounds then scanning for additional threats. During the scan one of the instructors behind the firing line would hold one or two signs indicating an additional threat was identified during the scan. One sign would read left or right and the second sign sometimes present would indicate a head shot. The students would then engage the target immediately to the left or the right of their primary target with 1-3 rounds to the body or the head depending on the signs found during the scan then the student would scan again and repeat the process until the scene was safe and the gun was returned to the holster. I like this drill a lot, because it forces the student to scan, process information, and act on it which isn’t something that can be done at most public ranges. The randomized actionable information which is presented in a randomized location forces the student to actively scan, collect, and analyze information around the environment rather than simply swivel the head and glance around to simulate a scan.

After several drills, we proceeded with the NRA CCW shooting qualification test. I don’t recall the course of fire and wasn’t able to find it with the internet searches that I performed. The internet searches yielded several courses of fire, but none matched the course of fire for this test. From what I remember and can tell, the course of fire tests the ability of the student to draw from concealment and shoot accurately. In other words, it forces the student to demonstrate familiarity with drawing and marksmanship fundamentals.

The course then shifted to working on getting the pistol out of the holster safely and quickly. We spent some time working on garment clearing techniques with one and two hands. In addition to the drills, sometime was spent discussing concealment garment selection. While we can’t always dress around the gun, there are some tactical benefits that can be gained when one does dress around the gun. For example, a closed front garment like a t-shirt with just enough length to conceal the firearm and to ensure the individual doesn’t look they are wearing a shirt that is too small is easier to clear because it has less of a chance of getting bunched up and getting hung up on the pistol when it is being cleared than a longer shirt. An open front concealment garment, like an unzipped or unbuttoned jacket, paired with an outside the waistband holster is much easier to clear with one hand than a closed front garment. This can be important in situations like shooting in low light when the support hand is preoccupied with operating a handheld flashlight. During this section, I recalled Tom Given’s advice to develop a robust technique that works reliably because in a gun fight one won’t get a second chance to attempt a better draw (from his Combative Pistol course). At the same time, the technique has to be fast enough because the first shot in the right place often determines the outcome of a defensive encounter. The importance of a fast draw became very apparent in the Tueller drills that followed.

I’ve been aware of the Tueller drill for quite some time. It’s frequently referenced in other training and reference material sometimes as the 21 foot rule. However, I had not previously had the opportunity to run the drill. The drill consists of a student, acting as the defender, facing down range at a target while another student or instructor, acting as the aggressor, stands facing up range and places a hand on the defending student. The aggressor starts the drill by tapping the defender’s shoulder as they start running up range as fast as possible. The defender then has to react to this stimulus, draw, and place a good shot on the down range target. The aggressor stops running once the shot is fired. A third student or instructor helps to estimate where the aggressor was up range when the shot was fired. Finally, the distance between the firing line and where the aggressor was when the shot was fired is paced off. This represents the distance an aggressor armed with a blunt impact weapon or blade can cover before the defender can react, draw, and place a good shot. The distance varies depending on the aggressor’s athletic ability and the defender’s ability to react, draw, and shoot. We saw distances varying from 15 to 24 feet which seemed to support the notion of the 21 foot rule established by the Tueller drill.

We ran a modified version of the Tueller drill where the defender started with a cleared concealment garment and an established grip on the holstered pistol before the aggressor initiated the drill. The distances covered by the aggressors were cut by more than half. This was a real eye opening experience in regards to how much time it takes to clear a garment and establish a grip on a pistol.

The last thing we worked on before breaking for lunch was shooting while moving. Some of the drills focused on “moving off the X”, that is moving laterally, while engaging the target. Additionally, we practiced moving backwards while shooting and around cover.

Lunch break consisted of scarfing down food that students brought while watching and discussing a handful of videos from real defensive events.

With fresh fuel in the tank we returned to the range for even more skill development. The afternoon started with additional holster work which focused primarily on drawing the pistol from various positions other than standing squarely in front of a target. This included drawing from a seated position and shooting while remaining seated, drawing from a seated position and then standing before shooting, and having to turn 90º and 180º while drawing and then shooting.

Students also had an opportunity to shoot from inside a vehicle. Part of this drill involved learning why shooting from a stationary vehicle against multiple assailants is a tactically horrible situation and only advisable if driving away or exiting the vehicle are unavailable options. Drawing a pistol while seated in the driver’s seat is difficult. Flexibility and physical shape forces a defender to adapt the presentation of the pistol depending on the location of the target in relation to the vehicle. This meant various combinations of canting the pistol, leaning, using a one handed grip. Even then there are various blind spots that can conceal an attacker and make engaging the attacker pretty much impossible.

The last skill we worked on was one handed shooting. The biggest take away from this bit of learning was that shooting one handed well is very dependent on the shooter’s ability to manipulate the trigger well. This is a direct result of not having the luxury of ever being able to grip the pistol with one hand as firmly as a two handed grip can. As such, deficiencies in trigger manipulation become very evident.

The range time was concluded with a scored Three Seconds or Less drill. The standards for a passing grade on this drill are 18 hits (in the grey or white zones) and at least 3 hits in the head using a KRT-2 target (freely available for download from the KR Training website) in order to pass the course. Admittedly, I was nervous about this qualification test going into the class. However, I’m happy to report that I met the standard.

We returned to the classroom one more time and were presented with the NRA CCW course presentation and the written exam. I was unaware, but was pleasantly surprised to learn that successful completion of this course also yields the students with an NRA CCW course completion certification. It’s a nice bonus and yet another certification that could aid an armed defender’s case should they ever end up in court as a result of a justified use of deadly force scenario.

What else can I say other than the course was excellent? I continue to be consistently impressed by the quality of instruction and training I receive at KR Training. The more I learn the more I’m convinced that all armed civilians can benefit immensely from courses like these. As such, I once again urge readers to seek quality training from qualified instructors. KR Training offers a great selection of courses and hosts several traveling trainers throughout the year. I encourage you to take a peek at their training schedule to find a course that piques your interest. Better yet, give KR Training a call and have Karl point you at a course that is appropriate for your goals and skill level.


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