I attended Gabe White’s Pistol Shooting Solutions class again. It was everything I remembered, everything I had forgotten, and then some. The course contents haven’t changed. However, I’ve changed quite a bit over the past two years as a shooter and to an extent that difference in perspective made it seem like I attended an entirely different course for the first time. It’s somewhat difficult to put that experience into words, but I suspect it may come through in this after action report which is bound to include several comparisons between my first time through the course and this time around.
The class I attended was once again hosted by KR Training. The weather couldn’t have been much better. It was a little brisk in the mornings but it warmed up to the high 80s with clear blue skies and the occasional breeze. Fourteen (14) students were in attendance, about half of which were shooting pistols with red dot sights.
I ended up using the same gear I used the last time I took the class down to the ammo. This was not planned or intentional. In fact, I didn’t even realize it until I started writing this. However, the side effect is quite remarkable as it makes me, or more specifically my skill, the single biggest variable between the two times I’ve attended this course. This provides a wonderful foundation on which to compare my experience and performance between the two times I’ve taken this class. At any rate, here is the gear that I used:
- 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
A Bit About Gabe White
Gabe is an interesting cat. I’ve mentioned before that he is an excellent instructor with impressive credentials, a solid reputation, and highly developed skills. He’s methodical and has this uncanny ability to weave philosophy, technical mechanics, ethical and moral concerns and legal issue aspects of topics in a thought provoking yet entertaining manner. While I stand by this opinion and continue to hold him in high regard, I also had the opportunity to see him in a different light.
Part of that different light was because Gabe was not at his best during this class. I think it was a little more than having a couple of “off” days. He had recently dealt with some hydration challenges at the course he taught the weekend prior and may not have been 100% recovered. Regardless, not being at his best came through in his performance on the technical skills tests and drill demonstrations. That is to say he didn’t shoot as well as he could have during this class. For comparison, in 2020 Gabe had 5 turbo pin and 3 light pin runs in the technical skills tests. This time around he had 4 turbo pin runs, 3 light pin runs, and one no pin run which is still fantastic shooting compared to most of us mere mortals, but not as well as he could have done. To an extent it was refreshing to hear and see his frustration which all of us feel from time to time when we don’t perform to our own expectations. At the same time, he took those moments and used them as examples of self diagnosis and correction to achieve better results. His performance also reinforced an important lesson that was a theme throughout the course. That theme was: by training to a higher level allows us to perform at a more than acceptable level under stress in less than ideal conditions.
I believe another aspect of seeing Gabe in a different light had to do with my paradigm as a more experienced pistol practitioner. I say this because I noticed different characteristics and qualities of Gabe’s instruction that I hadn’t noticed before. For example, I appreciated the organization of the training blocks differently than I did last time. While it’s obvious that each block of instruction was built on top of the previous ones, I now noticed that the organization was much more nuanced than I had imagined. It’s hard to explain, but the best way that I put it is that the blocks were intentionally organized to guide the student through a metamorphosis rather than pushed through a logical assembly line.
Another thing that I noticed is that Gabe is more than an instructor, he’s also a remarkable coach. Last time I took the class I felt like he was very prescriptive when he worked with me one on one. He walked me through things one step at a time. It’s what I needed at the time. This time around there was a lot less prescription and more encouragement. By encouragement I don’t mean compliments and “attaboys”, but rather moments where I was forced to articulate what I did during the shooting process which resulted in introspection that helped me see small details I hadn’t noticed before. It was as if he could intuit where I could benefit from increased awareness or focus.
So, yeah. Dude knows how to shoot. He also knows how to teach. He also knows how to drop some fat beats and folks should definitely check out his new track.
The structure of the class was virtually identical to the flow described in the previous after action report. I say virtually because the schedule and order of the blocks was modified slightly to accommodate the needs of some of the students. Nevertheless, here is an attempt at an abbreviated summary of the instructional blocks and drills in the order they took place.
As is typical in quality firearms training courses, we began with introductions, a safety brief, and an overview of the course. This level set everything we would do and what the students could expect from the class. This was followed by a short assessment drill which is intended to identify gear issues and give Gabe White an idea of where each student stood in terms of their individual pistol shooting skills. The drill also provided an opportunity for the students to get familiar with the range commands that would be used through the remainder of the course.
After the assessment, a block of instruction pertaining to sight alignment began which was accompanied with a drill creatively named, the sight misalignment drill. The purpose of this drill is to demonstrate how much sight alignment issues affect the point of impact at different distances. At distances of five (5), ten (10), and fifteen (15) yards one fires five slow and discrete shots at a target using a small aiming reference like a bright colored one inch square label. The first shot is fired with equal height and equal light alignment as possible, another is fired with equal light but a high front sight, another with equal light but a low front sight, another with equal height but no light on the left, and the final is fired with equal height but no light on the right. A different point of aim is for each of the three distances.
The next block of instruction focused on the trigger press. Time was spent discussing how shots requiring more precision deserve a more careful trigger press while shots requiring less precision can be made with less than perfect trigger presses. Between the sight alignment block and this one we can arrive at the conclusion that making acceptable hits is a function of seeing what you need to see and feeling what you need to feel. How much one needs to see and feel depends on the difficulty of the shot. The drill that accompanied this block was Gabe White’s Three Triggers dry fire drill.
See what you need to see and feel what you need to feel.Gabe White, Pistol Shooting Solutions, October 1, 2020
We then spent some time working on the draw and how to make the draw more efficient. This was accomplished with a combination of dry fire and live fire micro drills. The progression of drills started with a “count 1” drill which consisted of clearing the concealment garment and establishing a master firing grip on the pistil. Next was a “count 3 and 4” drill which focused on quickly joining the support hand extending the pistol while focusing on a smooth stop at full extension to minimize jarring the front sight or red dot. We then proceeded to do a full “draw and present” drill without pressing the trigger while again focusing on smooth stop. The draw work wrapped up after some “draw to first shot” drills which started dry and ended with live fire.
Having covered the basic fundamentals, the class continued with a block dedicated to shot calling. Shot calling is the practice of knowing where the last shot impacted by being aware of the sights the instant the shot broke without having to confirm the impact on the target. It’s not an easy skill to develop, but one that has a lot of value in practical shooting applications. The live fire drill used to work on this consisted of drawing and shooting a pair of shots on a target about 25 yards away and then marking where we perceived the impact to be on a target next to us. The distance was only important in the sense that it was far enough for it to be impossible to visually confirm the impact on the target.
The first of four head to head challenges followed. There are a total of four head to head challenges where two students race to complete a shooting task. The first to finish earns an “Aim Patch” which is a nice memento from the class. This challenge consisted of the one shooter initiating the challenge by drawing and attempting to hit a single steel target. The other student, who starts from a ready position of their choice, reacts and attempts to hit a similar sized single steel target that is twice as far as their opponent’s target. The first to make their hit wins.
The next block introduced the concept of the sight movie which is Gabe’s take on sight picture. It’s nuanced, but words matter. The concept, as I understand it, brings together the idea of seeing what you need to see in order to get a good shot relative to the target’s difficulty while minimizing the dwell time before breaking a shot. It also addresses the reality that the sights are always in motion. The students used a dry fire drill coined “Sights Meet Trigger 1” to put the concept into practice. The drill starts with the trigger pressed all the way in and the slide charged with the pistol positioned slightly upwards from the desired point of impact for the “next shot”. When ready, the sight is brought towards the target while the trigger is reset and prepped for that “next shot” so that ideally the trigger breaks at the same moment the sights arrive at the target without waiting for the sights to be completely still on the target.
We continued working on the sight movie concept by running the Toprock (or Rheostat) Drill. This drill consists of firing a string of shots where the rate of fire increases as more shots are fired while still getting good hits. The idea is to experience working with the sight movie concept to achieve fast acceptable hits with slow split times. This set the stage for the first or four technical skill tests: the Bill Drill.
Each technical skill test block started with Gabe describing and demonstrating the drill. This was followed by students shooting the drill several times while pushing safely beyond their limits and then several more times in a disciplined manner where we were able to consistently get our hits at the fastest pace possible. The two modalities of practice are very important. The pushing modality is important in order to deepen our understanding of a skill and improve. It’s the whole “have to break some eggs to make an omelet” thing. While the ondemand modality is used to cement or burn in a disciplined application of the skill being worked on.
Following the pushing and on-demand practice, Gabe took the test for score. This meant running the specific drill twice and scoring twice. This was followed with each student getting two practice timed runs and finally each student ran the drill twice for score. I’ll cover test results later in this post after finishing the course content summary which is now looking more like a short story and may end up being novel.
Next up was a block on using movement to manage shot trajectories. This is important when dealing with a threat that is in front of or directly behind somebody who doesn’t need to be shot. In this situation we can move laterally to find a trajectory path that only includes the threat.
The focus then shifted to working on target transitions where we were introduced to a variant of the “Sights Meet Trigger” drill aptly named, “Sights Meet Trigger 2”. This drill also starts with the trigger pressed all the way to the rear and slide charged. However, it begins with the pistol leveled and aligned on the “previously shot target”. When ready, the eyes move to the second target and the pistol follows. As the pistol moves, the trigger is reset and prepped so we can break the shot as the sights arrive on the second target while minimizing the dwell time on the target. This set the stage for the second technical skills test: the Failure to Stop drill.
The second day of class began with the second head to head challenge. This challenge was initiated by one student who had the task of moving around a barrel and to the edge of a barrier and firing a single shot on one steel target. The other student who started at the ready had the task of shooting a single shot on two different steel targets after reacting to the first student’s movement.
The second head to head challenge was immediately followed by the third and fourth technical skill tests: the Immediate Incapacitation drill and the Split Bill drill. This was a slight deviation from the typical flow of class, but it was done to accommodate a student who was unable to be present for the entirety of the second day.
The next block of instruction was one of my favorite blocks from the first time I took the class and was arguably my favorite block this time around as well. This block dealt with shooting on the move where on the move means moving as quickly as physically possible while firing at a single threat. This was done by starting on one end of the firing line and running to the other end while drawing and firing one or two shots on a single target. For obvious safety reasons, this drill was conducted one student at a time while the rest of the students ate lunch. There are several reasons as to why I enjoy this block so much. It is a very challenging block and it is amazingly eye opening to learn that one is capable of getting good hits under conditions that make good shots difficult. Another reason is that this drill is something that can only be done if one has access to a private range.
The third head to head challenge followed. For this challenge, both students started at the center of the shooting bay and on the signal the students ran to opposite ends of the bay (away from each other) and had to shoot a single steel target. Each student was given the choice to shoot on the move or to move to the end of the bay and shoot. First student to hit their target won the challenge.
The final instruction blocks focused on working with barriers. One block focused on maintaining proper distance from the barrier and minimizing exposure while varying positions of exposure. Another block focused on making use of the different options presented when reaching a barrier. Those include disengagement or creating and maintaining advantages to win and end the fight.
The range time was concluded with the fourth and final head to head challenge. In this challenge which was initiated with a start signal. One student was tasked with hitting a partially exposed target from behind a barrier and then quickly moving to another barrier and hitting the same target which was no longer exposed again. The other student had to deal with an aggressor envelopment which was simulated by having to hit 5 steel plates from a position of cover.
The class concluded with the presentation of completion certificates and technical skill test pin awards.
Technical Skill Tests
The technical skill tests, as mentioned above, provide an opportunity for a student to earn and walk away with an award. As Gabe White points out, the pins are not standards, but rather goals that a motivated student can work towards. As I learned the previous time I took the course, not every student walks away with a pin. In this course, one turbo pin, three light pins, and six dark pins were earned and awarded.
The four drills that make up the tests are:
- Bill Drill – Draw and fire six shots to the body.
- Failure to Stop Drill – Draw, fire two shots to the body, transition and fire one shot to the head.
- Immediate Incapacitation Drill – Draw and fire two shots to the head.
- Split Bill Drill – Draw, fire four shots to the body, transition and fire two shots to the head.
Each drill has its own time goals needed to establish a qualifying pin run. Details of those times can be found on Gabe White’s web site. Any four runs that meet a particular pin threshold are used to earn that particular pin. In other words, a turbo pin can be earned by scoring four turbo pin runs on the first two drills. I managed to squeak out a light pin.
Overall, I was very pleased with my performance. As some of y’all know, I spent the last month specifically preparing for this class in order to earn a pin. However, I’d be a fool to attribute my success entirely on one month’s preparation. It was truly a function of steady improvement over time and putting in the work which really started at the beginning of this year, but also built on the work I’ve done since I last took the class. I’ll take the light pin and celebrate the achievement, but there is a good chance I will take this class again for another shot at a turbo pin. That means I still have work to do.
If I was to sum up this class in one word then that word would be transformative, which I happily stole from John Daub in a conversation I had with him regarding this class. The class itself is fantastic. It’s challenging while providing a ton of tidbits that one can takeaway and exploit to improve their technical shooting skills. Additionally the instruction and coaching from Gabe White adds another dimension that is hard to quantify, but it plays a large part in the overall experience.
As if that wasn’t enough, there is more to it. The classmates play a big part in the experience as well. There is a lot of value in meeting other motivated enthusiasts of the gun as they not only make for good friends, but often provide inspiration and can teach one a thing or two that weren’t in the lesson plan. For example, one of my fellow classmates was bound to a wheelchair yet that didn’t stop him from coming out and learning. He made no excuses and put in the same work the rest of us did. This made me realize that I need to stop blaming my arthritis for bad performances. It’s not something that I’ve done often, but it reminded me that I need to figure out a way to achieve the goal I am working on everytime I feel like it is holding me back.
For me watching classmates who perform better than I do in class lights that competitive spark that drives me to work harder and smarter in order to keep improving. One example of this includes meeting Aaron Banks, who is a firearms instructor and owner of Keep Firing LLC. Aaron shot exceptionally well and made earning his light pin look easy as he came very close to walking away with a turbo pin. With a little luck, I’ll be able to talk Aaron into shooting a couple of local matches with me where I fully expect him to beat me, but will also give me a chance to beat him all while giving us both motivation to keep getting better. Another example of this would be meeting K.A. Clark and witnessing him receive his third turbo pin.
So yeah, I think transformative is the right word. Both times I’ve been through the class I’ve come out of it different. I’ve learned things about myself and my abilities that I was unaware of. I’ve come out with new tools I can use in practice to keep improving. I’ve left with more friends and contacts. I suppose the same thing could be said about other courses. Not to mention a big part of what one takes away from class is also a function of what one puts into it. Nevertheless, this is one of those courses that I think any motivated person who is looking to substantially advance their technical shooting skills should strongly consider taking at least once if not more.
Those interested in taking this course should periodically check or follow Gabe White’s Eventbrite page for upcoming course offerings. Additionally, folks can also periodically check KR Training’s schedule for future offerings since KR tends to host Gabe White once a year.