This past weekend, I was able to attend Kyle Defoor’s two day pistol class held at the Blue Trail Range in Wallingford, CT. Like most of Defoor’s open enrollment classes, this one had been sold out since a little over 24 hours after being listed! I’m glad I was able to get a spot. A word to the wise, if you want to train with Defoor, when classes are posted, hesitation kills! Defoor is actually changing the enrollment notification process slightly in the coming year, so if you aren’t already following him on social media, you should be.
I will start by saying that this was both a humbling and pivotal class for me. Humbling because I probably started the class as the worst shooter. Whether this was due to lack of recent practice, recent changes that I had made to my pistol (different sights and a different back strap), or just having a bad day is irrelevant to this review. The important observation is that this was a pivotal class for me marked by distinct improvement in my shooting during the class and some significant changes in my thinking and techniques. While I still don’t think I could pass his standards test right now, it is definitely an attainable goal to work towards.
As the range rules prohibited us from going hot until 0900, Defoor began the day with a safety and medical brief. The safety brief went beyond the fundamental four rules, and addressed how to safely handle firearms in the real world. If you consider the four rules absolutely inviolate, then I challenge you to contemplate Defoor’s example scenario. That is, climb into a car with three of your buddies, all with loaded rifles, and try to have everyone simultaneously bail out of the car without muzzling somebody else! Rather, Defoor stressed that we should approach firearms safety by assuming that being loaded is the natural state of a gun, by considering the backstop at all times no matter the environment, and by being especially cognizant of the interplay between muzzle and trigger finger.
His medical brief is a new feature in this year’s classes, and is a solid addition to the curriculum. Let me put it this way… I’ve been in EMS for over fifteen years, and a practicing paramedic for nine years, and I learned something new! Good stuff!
Defoor started the shooting portion of the class by having us shoot his pistol test number one. The test started with us running from our target to the 25 yard line and then firing six rounds in under 30 seconds at a B8 repair center pasted onto an IPSC backer. This was followed by 1 round at 7 yards in under 2 seconds into the reduced “A” zone of an IPSC target (created by the bottom edge of the B8 repair center being lined up on the bottom “C/D” line), then a Bill Drill at 7 yards into the reduced “A” zone in under 4.5 seconds, and finally 2 head shots at 7 yards into the “credit card” in under 3.5 seconds. All starting from the holster. Passing is scoring a 50 on the B8 target, and keeping all shots within the reduced “A” zone and credit card within the allotted time. As an example of the improvement I mentioned earlier, I scored a zero with my first shots at 25 yards. Yup, a horribly embarrassing “nada.” Later in the morning, after Defoor had addressed the fundamentals, I managed a 76 with 10 rounds on the B8 at 25 yards.
Defoor uses this test to assess the class ability and see where each individual student stands. After the initial test, we repeated multiple 10 round strings of fire at 25 yards, with pasting of the targets and lessons on fundamentals such as stance, grip, and sighting interspersed between.
Just as he focuses on zeroing and “truing” the gun in his carbine classes, we first checked our pistol’s zero before moving on to fixing our own deficiencies. Indeed, more than one gun’s sights were drifted with a hammer and punch on the tailgate of Defoor’s truck.
Defoor stresses being able to fight at distance in order to gain a tactical advantage over less skilled opponents. We spent a lot of time at the 25 yard line, and started shooting at 50 yards on day two. Defoor’s explanation of parallel and angular deviation is of enormous benefit when trying to achieve accuracy at distance. While almost any instructor can explain equal light and equal height in terms of a sight picture, Defoor’s explanation goes beyond the basics and assigns terms to the science and angles of a correct sight picture and how to use it to make hits at distance.
After thoroughly reviewing the fundamentals of marksmanship Defoor style, Kyle moved on to his segment on terminal ballistics and targeting. In short, he discusses in detail how to actually physiologically stop people with a pistol, a subject that is often glossed over or outright neglected by other instructors. Having cared for more than a few gunshot victims and having attended a cadaver lab in the early days of my career, I can appreciate the fundamental importance of understanding where exactly you should aim to accomplish the objective of incapacitating an attacker. It’s not palatable and it’s not politically correct, but it is absolutely necessary. Any instructor that doesn’t explain it is doing his students a disservice. As a further example of just how much knowledge Kyle shares in his classes, while we were discussing handgun terminal ballistics, some knife combatives were also briefly discussed in his explanation of certain concepts.
Defoor then showed us some ready positions and ran us through some drills starting from those positions. He then discussed drawing the pistol and timed each individual student’s draw time. One thing that I had never before encountered in training was that he identified each individual’s pattern of draw, and discussed the merits and deficiencies of each. This seemed to be an enlightening experience for all students. As well, various carry positions were discussed. Working from the previously taught ready positions, we practiced shooting multiple rounds to the body and head or whatever combination we wanted, with the point being to transition between different targets. The day was concluded with a block of instruction on how to clear pistol malfunctions. As with most things Defoor teaches, his method just works without any extraneous crap involved.
My total round count for Day 1 was 275 rounds.
Day 2 began with Defoor giving his mindset lecture that is a key feature of all of his open enrollment classes. While it is best appreciated in person, a brief online version is in the public domain, and serves as an excellent primer for interested parties. For the antithesis of Defoor’s briefing, check out this recent video of a police officer that was woefully unprepared for the realities of his career choice (ignore the commentary and subtitles, and just listen to the officer and the fight taking place in the background).
The shooting portion of Day 2 began at the 50 yard line, firing ten round groups at IPSC backers. Like the day before, we repeated this exercise multiple times, pasting the targets and learning new material between the strings of fire. Next, Defoor showed us a simple exercise to practice and improve our split times. In other words, he taught us how to learn to shoot faster. We were then shown how to address threats to our flanks and to our rear. Defoor teaches a simple way to turn to face a threat that has distinct advantages over what I had learned previously. We finished the day with some barricade work and movement drills. Defoor set up several stations which allowed students to get plenty of turns in shooting at steel from behind both sides of the barricades and later while moving. Although level of participation was largely left up to the individual, Defoor was constantly moving and coaching in the background. This format allowed all students to run through several magazines worth of ammunition at each station. We were encouraged to reload as needed and appropriate, whether moving or stationary. I wound up practicing both tactical and slide lock reloads throughout the day.
Day 2 concluded with a final Q&A session, and certificates of attendance for all.
All of Defoor’s open enrollment classes are capped at 14 students, and this one featured a mix of people from at least as far away as NJ. As many of us were subject to the restrictions of anti-gun jurisdictions (NY, NJ, CT, and MA), a wide range of pistols were in use. More than one 1911 was observed on the line, along with the expected Glocks, M&Ps, one X D, and a CZ. I would estimate that between a third to half of the class used AIWB holsters. The only malfunctions I observed were probably ammo related in one G19 with a match barrel, and a broken trigger return spring in another Glock. This provided the opportunity for Defoor to drop yet another knowledge bomb, specifically, how to run a Glock with a broken trigger return spring!
For my part, I exclusively shot my Glock 19 Gen4. I made the conscious decision to do something a little different this class. In keeping with the mantra of “train how you fight, and fight how you train,” I chose to download all of my magazines to 10 rounds, as that is all I can legally carry day to day. The other major change I made was to switch my sights between Day 1 and Day 2. While I am generally against changing horses midstream, I think this change was warranted. I had recently been trying out the Ameriglo I-Dot Pro Tritium sights, but found that I had great difficulty making the hits at distance. Further, I really didn’t seem to realize any significant advantage up close. That night, I put the Ameriglo Defoor sights back on my Glock. They do everything I need pistol sights to do, and allow for the precision required at distance. I also had been experimenting with the medium beavertail back strap on my Glock, and I chose to remove it for Day 2. The gun fits my hand better without it, but I did suffer some slide bite. I used Aguila 124 grain 9mm ammunition, and had no failures or malfunctions of any kind in the nearly 600 rounds that I shot between the two days.
Robert discussed in a previous post just how many classes he’s taken and how many trainers he’s been exposed to. My own story is not all that different. At last tally, over the past two decades, I have taken 17 separate classes with at least 7 different instructors or facilities, including Tom Givens, Paul Howe, Gunsite, Suarez International, Mike Pannone, and Kyle Defoor. Despite my recent mediocre performance, at this stage of the game, one begins to wonder what exactly one can take from a class… let me simply say that Defoor’s classes are game changers!
I gained a lot from this class and I’ve changed a few things based on my experience in class. I’m experimenting with a different grip on my handgun, I’ve reverted back to the Ameriglo Defoor sights, my understanding of how to use pistol sights is vastly improved, and I’ve gained a new understanding of how to best move and shoot, including from a reactionary standpoint. I may in fact revisit and rewrite my shooting while moving article based on this recent experience. As well, my experience in this class absolutely highlighted the importance of constant practice of the fundamentals and the need for continuing education, if you will. Intrinsic understanding of tactical principles is all good and well, but if you lack the fundamental skill to put those tactical principles to effective use, you’re not training correctly. Despite some major recent changes in my life that have left me with almost no free time and little sleep, I must carve a few minutes out each week to continue to hone and maintain the fundamentals of marksmanship.
To sum the weekend up, awesome class! Defoor is one of my favorite trainers, and I will continue to seek out his classes. I suggest you do the same! If you’d like to hear a little more from Defoor himself, he participated in a more than three hour interview on the Primary & Secondary ModCast the night before this class. Filled with all sorts of historical tidbits and general knowledge, the video/podcast is well worth your time. The audio quality isn’t great, as Defoor was driving up the East Coast on cellular, but the information presented is of definite interest.
As always, thanks for reading, and we welcome your comments and questions!