It’s difficult for me to articulate how much I’ve come to appreciate KR Training and the staff there. They have played a significant part of my journey to become a better marksman and self defender over the past couple of years. They have been more than instructors. They have been mentors and friends who communicate with me and provide advice outside of formal instruction setting. In fact, Karl Rehn suggested attending the Skill Builder class, which this post is about, to help me better prepare for the Rangemaster instructor qualification I have been focused on via an email exchange we were having.
The Skill Builder course is a highly focused two hour practice session open to students at any level who want to improve or refine mechanical pistol handling skills. The class takes place entirely on the range with the exception of a safety briefing that occurs at the very beginning of the class. In a typical KR Training fashion, the class maintains a very healthy instructor to student ratio which reinforces safe gun handling practices while simultaneously ensuring that each student receives an abundant dose of individually personalized instruction to set them on their own path to reach a higher level of skill. More specifically, the ten students who attended this class were instructed by Karl Rehn who was assisted by John “Hsoi” Daub and Levi Nathan.
The day itself was stupid hot. If memory serves me right, the heat index was somewhere in the neighborhood of 108ºF and it wasn’t a dry heat. This posed risks of exhaustion, dehydration, and exposure to content with. Thankfully, KR Training deployed a couple easy up canopies on the firing line in addition to existing shade where students were able to hydrate while reloading magazines in between drills.
Gear wise, I participated using what has been my everyday carry set up with practice ammo. Here is the breakdown of that set up for those who are curious:
- Gun: Heckler & Koch VP9 with a Trijicon RMR
- Holster: G-Code Incog Eclipse IWB holster on my strong side
- Mag pouches: Concealment Solutions Venom Single Magazine Carrier x2
- Belt: Concealment Solutions 1.5″ Python Gun Belt (Horsehide)
- Ammo: Fenix Ammunition 9mm 147gr Training Ammo (round count for the course was roughly 200 rounds)
Following the initial safety brief at the start of class, the range time started with students shooting the Minimum Competency Assessment. However, it was presented as a set of timed shooting strings without any adieu and was explained afterwards. The assessment requires shooting several short strings of fire from distances ranging from three to ten yards with hands placed at various starting positions and sometimes requiring a side step. The assessment is one of John Daub’s latest developments designed to provide a person with an idea of where one should focus their improvements efforts in order to achieve and surpass a minimum level of marksmanship competency in order to have a fair chance at successfully defending one’s self in an encounter where lethal force is justified and required. Lee Weems hosted John Daub on a podcast back in April 2020 where they dove into the details of the assessment, its origin, and its development. It’s a fantastic discussion and well worth a listen. The course of fire and more information about this assessment is available in John Daub’s ebook, “Drills, Qualifications, Standards, and Tests”, which is available as a free download as well.
There were several other drills that we ran. I don’t remember them all and I don’t quite remember the exact order. While I’d like to blame my lack of recollection on the heat, the truth is I did a poor job of taking notes because I was focused on shooting and improving. The few drills that I clearly remember at F.A.S.T., 5×5, and 5 Yard Roundup. These drills are well documented elsewhere on the internet and also in John Daub’s ebook, “Drills, Qualifications, Standards, and Tests”. As such, I won’t get into the drill details on this post.
The focus of the class wasn’t in shooting drills. It was skill building. While well known drills were used in the class, they were ordered and interweaved with instruction that focused on the improvement of specific skills. One of those skills was getting the gun out of the holster and on target quickly and consistently. This involved breaking down the draw into steps and working on each step individually. This was then followed by combining those steps into a smooth and deliberate motion. A similar approach was taken to work on out of battery reloads. In both cases, drills were used to practice the instructed mechanics while the staff provided individual feedback to either correct errors or help the student improve their application of the mechanics.
There were two occasions during the class where students worked on eliminating pre-ignition push problems. From what I understand, this problem occurs as one anticipates recoil and begins pushing down before firing a shot which manifests itself in follow up shots that trend low and left for right handed shooters (or low and right for left handed shooters) from the point of aim. The first occasion occurred near the start of class while working with a target at a distance of about three yards. The second occasion occurred near the end of class while working with a target at a distance of about ten yards. In both cases, we used the Live-Empty Drill to identify the presence of a pre-ignition push and correct it. This drill involves loading a single cartridge into the chamber of the pistol and removing the magazine. Then two shots are fired at the target. Ideally the student should see their front sight (or red dot) lift after firing the first shot and see the front sight (or dot) remain steady when the second shot is fired upon the return of the front sight (or red dot). If the front sight (or red dot) dips on the second trigger press, then a pre-ignition push is present and the drill is repeated until the push is no longer present.
While a lot of work was done shooting freestyle (with a two handed grip on the pistol) from three, five, seven, and ten yards, we also spent some time working on one handed shooting with both the strong and weak hands.
The class concluded with a few minutes of air conditioned classroom time where the reprieve from the heat was welcomed by all. God bless Willis Carrier. During the time the students each took a turn at sharing their main takeaway from the class which is another thing I’ve come to expect from KR Training courses. However, the takeaways were a bit different than usual in the sense that they varied greatly. I suspect this was due to the broader range of skill level and experience of students who attended this class. While the details of each takeaway varied, they all had a common theme. Each student improved in some aspect that was specific to them and where they currently were in their skill development.
My takeaway was affirmative confirmation that what I have been doing to prepare for the Rangemaster instructor qualification is working. More specifically, I am finding myself being able to relax, shoot a drill at my pace, and achieve an acceptable result more and more often. In other words, I am spending an increasing amount of time “in flow” than “out of flow” which suggests I’m developing more automaticity.
Overall, this Skill Builder class is a fantastic way to spend two hours and two hundred rounds. It’s part diagnosis and part instruction with a heavy dose of make you better. It was also a lot of fun.
If this class sounds like it could be beneficial or fun, then I suggest checking out the class schedule on KR Training’s website to look for a scheduled offering. There are dozens of scheduled courses at any point in time and there is probably at least one that will speak to one’s interests and goals. I also encourage y’all to sign up for KR Training’s monthly email newsletter to remain in the loop with future course offerings. And for those of you wondering, the only financial relationship I have with KR Training is that of a student who pays full tuition to attend courses. That’s a relationship that has been worth every penny and one that I see continuing into the foreseeable future.