A Student Of The Gun

It seems the more that I learn about firearms, the less I realize that I actually know—which of course leads me to continually learn and train—a self-proclaimed student of the gun.

by Kristy Titus

Santa Clause brought my sister and me our first firearm, a .22 LR that we promptly used on New Year’s Day for an Oregon high-desert rabbit hunt. As an adult, I have taken that early interest in firearms and hunting and flat-out blown it up into an obsession. It seems the more that I learn about firearms, the less I realize that I actually know—which of course leads me to continually learning and training—a self-proclaimed student of the gun.

With much of my firearm experience being in the fundamental development of shooting rifles, the past couple of years I have taken a strong interest in shooting a pistol. My interest is two-fold: The first reason is that I enjoy shooting a pistol at steel and hearing it ring, and the second is because as a concealed carrier, I want to understand my firearms limitations as well as my own as it relates to defensive situations.

My enthusiasm for skill development led me to Magpul Core to attend the “Handgun 1” course with the Director of Training for Precision Rifle Operations, Caylen Wojcik.

Thanks to my cousin Hank, who works for Zev Technologies, I was driving my custom Glock 19 … and I couldn’t wait to get this beauty to the range for training.

Drill: Single-round circles at 3, 5 and 7 yards. Five rounds at each yard line to diagnose and correct fundamental errors.

We started out slow, gaining confidence and competence with all of the fundamentals with my pistol from grip, stance, sight picture, sight alignment and all aspects of recoil management … and a good bit of time on trigger control techniques.

in mind, I am tiny. Like super tiny, so many over-the-counter double-stack pistol grips do not fit me well and I struggle with maintaining proper grip position and managing recoil. Even with the modified grip on my Glock 19, I still struggled to some degree with maintaining proper grip throughout recoil.

One thing that I have going for me is that I am strong for my size, so coupled with proper stance, using grip strength, my entire upper body including my chest, arms and shoulders to help control recoil, I learned how to employ all of those components for improved downrange accuracy.

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Drill: As a team, we practiced the old “Ball and Dummy” drill with Caylen handing the pistol with either a loaded or unloaded condition to me to observe/coach any fundamental errors.

Thankfully, this went rather smooth and I was not corrected for any fundamental application errors throughout this drill.

Okay, so the first thing I discovered is that I had a bad habit—I had the tendency to want to load my magazine into my pistol at waist level looking down at the ground. This could get me in trouble, especially in a defensive situation. Learning to load my pistol and manipulate my slide at eye level while maintaining situational awareness took a conscious effort all day long.

Learning to also be proactive in my reloading—learning to manage my body as my workspace—became important. Where are my additional magazines stored? Do I have enough rounds in my current magazine to complete the next drill? Should I execute a proactive reload? If I burn through my magazine, how do I quickly reload, all while maintaining situational awareness?

Drill: Practice proactive reloads then emergency reloads.
Note—was there an accuracy change between each reloading style?

Balance Of Speed & Accuracy
Transitioning into balance of speed and accuracy drill was a challenge. How fast can I shoot? Well, I got faster as the days progressed, and I learned how to determine under a time constraint what an acceptable sight picture is for my intended target as the margin of error for acceptable sight picture decreases as distance to the target increased. Literally one can only shoot as fast as your sights allow you to shoot. Better recoil management equals faster, more accurate shooting.

Drill: One Inch Grid—From the 3-yard line, fire one magazine through an outlined 1-inch grid for time.

Drill: Triple bull’s-eye—10 yards, 10 rounds, 30 seconds. 10 yards, 10 rounds, 20 seconds. And 10 yards, 10 rounds, 10 seconds. The target is an NRA 25-meter bullseye.

It sounds easy, but this is where follow-through and staying on the gun become critical along with proper trigger reset and staying on the sights. I shoot very accurately, but when I pick up the pace, my accuracy suffers. This is my current plateau, and I need to train here until the accuracy and speed come together before I can progress to the next level.

Transitioning Targets
The tendency to overrun the target is significant, especially because I struggle with eye dominancy issues, but as with everything there is proper technique to prevent the said shooter (me) from a drive-by, missing the intended target. First the eyes go to the new target, next the head and last the gun. Practicing this over and over until unconscious competence kicked in and it becomes somewhat second nature.

Drill: Multiple Targets and Transitions—Engage target to left or right, then right to left.
Evaluation: Were my mechanics correct, eyes, head, gun? Was I successful in hitting my intended target? How many rounds did it take to hit?

Movement makes everything more difficult. Learning to manage the necessary fundamentals, employ proper reloading techniques, under time and while moving—things just got Western, but this is where the real fun begins.

Learning how to move forward and backward, while keeping one’s self from falling or tripping over any potential obstructions, requires technique. And yes, of course there is a technique for this so that you as the shooter can maintain situational awareness while safely moving from point A to B and accurately engaging your intended target. Prevailing in a gun fight requires movement, coupled with delivering accurate fire. Becoming proficient while shooting on the move is a very necessary skill.

Drill: Shooting on the move, forward 10 yards to 3 yards. Backward 3 yards to 7 yards.

Drill: Shooting on the move, left to right, then right to left at the 3- and 5-yard line.

Understanding and learning about and training with firearms is a passion that I will not soon abandon. This was a small, 2-day, 600-round taste of the goodness that is yet to come.

I am certainly no expert shooter, but I walked away with a tremendous amount of knowledge and a comprehensive understanding of my limitations—as well as the limitations of my pistol.

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