The title of this After Action Review should look familiar, as John took the same class about a month before. Based on his experience with the Defoor carbine class last summer, along with reviews found around the web written by others, I made it a priority to sign up for this class. Just like with the pistol class John took, this one was full within a day or two of registration opening. The classes do not fill so fast only because of Kyle Defoor’s popularity as an instructor. He purposefully limits each of his open-enrollment classes to only 14 students (which is AWESOME!).
This class was held at the Steel City Gun Club in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Cost of the course was $525.00. The weather was excellent, if hot, both days. The punishing humidity so common in Eastern Pennsylvania during the summer was thankfully absent; on Saturday the temperature reached the low-90s and on Sunday the mid to upper-80s, with strong sun both days. I will mention right here that I am not affiliated with Kyle Defoor or his company, Defoor Proformance Shooting, in any way except as a full-price paying customer. What follows in this report is what we did in the class as much as I can piece it together from my all-too-brief notes. Such was the pace of instruction that I did not have as much time as I usually do to jot down information. I will also be deliberately vague in some areas for a number of reasons.
Training Day One began at 0800 with an introduction by Kyle of himself and his background. Much of his biographical information can be found online through a cursory search and even listening to interviews/podcasts where he was a guest. Short version is about ten years with Naval Special Warfare, then off to the private sector as an instructor with Blackwater, TigerSwan, and most recently his own company. Kyle took attendance but there were no student introductions.
Next we discussed the range safety rules. John’s review covered these well, so I won’t belabor the points here. I will mention that given the relatively small class size and Kyle’s ever-watchful eyes, safety violations, when they occurred, were immediately addressed (as the guy who racked a slide behind Kyle while we were walking to the target area found out). Dovetailing off the safety brief was the medical plan should a serious injury occur during class. Kyle’s plan, I must say, went beyond what the instructors of most of my prior classes have done. For example, his truck would be our evacuation vehicle, with a clear path of egress mapped out, GPS coordinates of two area hospitals pre-programmed, etc. Good stuff.
Kyle then showed us his preferred loading procedures. When it comes to loading, Kyle does not use the “workspace” term, but what he does is essentially the same, bringing the pistol in to the area in front of the body below eye-level, palm up. The magazine is inserted, the hand flipped (palm down), the slide pinched, pulled back, and released, and then a press check performed. Kyle demonstrated two different ways of doing press checks (one visual, the other tactile).
We began our shooting day with Kyle demonstrating, and then having us perform, his “Test #1”. Rather than explain it, here is Kyle shooting it on a YouTube video. Think it is easy? Think again. I screwed up the 25 yard shots pretty badly (I shot a whopping 24 out of a possible 60, with 50 being a passing score). I hit the single shot to the reduced A in time, and got 5 of the 6 in the reduced A zone in time (the one miss would make it a failure). Finally, I got one out of two in the “credit card”. Work to do!
After looking at the targets and checking our scores, Kyle showed us the proper way to pass a pistol to someone. I have had some instructors show me how to pass a pistol to them (such as if they wanted to check the sights or something) before, usually keeping the pistol pointed downrange toward the target arrays. Kyle showed us the best way to do this in any scenario, keeping the trigger guard covered and with the muzzle pointed safely. He then showed us the best way to pass a magazine to someone. Funny that as many classes as I have taken, no one has ever showed this before. This would be a recurring theme.
After taping over our targets, we moved back to the 25 yard line, where we would spend much of the morning. Kyle wanted us to shoot ten rounds on a B-8 repair center to try to figure out where our pistols were hitting at that distance. We would then make adjustments accordingly. Yes, Kyle believes in zeroing pistols just like rifles/carbines, and finds it odd most people do not do this.
So, at 25 yards and trying to hold at the same spot on the target for every round, we fired ten rounds, then moved forward to check our targets. As I was walking forward I looked at the targets to my left and right, curious as to how well those nearby were shooting. I could not believe that the guy to my right had missed his target completely…..until I saw 20 holes on my own target! So much for “getting information”. Unable to determine whose holes were whose, that was a few minutes and ten rounds wasted.
Back we went to the 25 yard line for another ten rounds. After checking my target, Kyle asked me if my front sight was loose. That’s never a good sign! It was fine (I was using my third generation Glock 19), so he determined that my issue was either the worst fundamentals in the world or ammunition issues. He asked what I was shooting and I told him “Blazer Brass”. He graciously offered me some of his ammunition for all of our 25 yard and beyond shooting, finding Blazer only suitable for closer work. Sure enough, when I switched ammo to his military ball ammunition, I actually had a group to work with. Thanks again for the ammunition, Kyle!
Having said that, some of my issue was also my sights. Yes, I love my Ameriglo I Dot Pros, but just like John found out when he took this same class, the wide front sight essentially covers the entire B-8 repair center, making it tough to know where you will be hitting. I have found this to be the case in my own work at 25 yards at my local range; I am quite good with the I Dot Pros out to about 15-20 yards, but then the front post is just too wide. I have some decisions I need to make moving forward.
After each string fired at 25 yards, Kyle would do a small block of instruction. He told us later that he breaks it up to give our eyes time to rest after the strain we put them under shooting at distance. The first block was about Parallel and Angular Deviation. As mentioned by John in his AAR, this would be very important and referenced throughout the rest of course. I guess the best way to explain it is Parallel Deviation would be perfect sight alignment, with equal light/equal height and all that jazz. As long as your sight alignment is perfect, then even if your sight picture (superimposing that sight alignment onto a target) is slightly off, your hits will only be slightly off. Conversely, if you induce Angular Deviation (sights not perfectly aligned), then even only slight errors will pull you shots WAY off. Obviously, and as we learned later, at different distances (and therefore different speeds of shooting), you can get away with a less perfect sight alignment and sight picture.
Back to 25 yards for another string, and by now some students were having Kyle make some adjustments to their sights. As an owner of an MGW Sight Pusher, I’ve never been one to take a hammer and punch to my sights. However, I must say that Kyle has a great way of doing this, and his use of a ball point pen to make reference marks on the slide and sights was genius. Kyle also fired a few students’ pistols to see if their issues were sights or user-induced.
Subsequent teaching blocks included grip and stance (for those who are reading this who know the fundamentals of marksmanship, you may have noticed how Kyle went through these essentially backwards. That was not without reason.). For grip, Kyle favors a fairly relaxed grip with the shooting hand and a strong grip with the support hand. He also favors, on certain guns (like Glocks), pinching the trigger guard with the support hand index finger. You can look at his description in this video. It works! For stance, Kyle found too many of us hunching forward too far, with heads down and eyes essentially looking up out of our eye sockets. This is an issue that I have had for a long time and I can recall a number of instructors addressing (not just with me, but with entire classes). Kyle favors an aggressive leg positioning (support side foot pretty well forward of the strong side foot) with a straight back and head help up, bringing the pistol up to the eyes rather than the eyes down to the pistol.
We finished out the morning by partnering up and doing some ball and dummy drills at 15 yards to identify recoil anticipation. If our partners saw any flinches, then we owed him five solid dryfires. I “passed” all of mine. The last thing we did before lunch was one final string of ten rounds at 25 yards, where I now shot a 64. So I was improving, and Kyle certainly gave us plenty of stuff to work on as we take his instruction into our future practice sessions.
After lunch, we gathered around in the shade for an hour-plus block of instruction on first aid. Kyle addressed the importance of this based on his own history as well as recent events in the news (the Orlando massacre comes to mind). Kyle showed us his own blow-out kit as well as a training version that he keeps handy for classes. He explained the use of a tourniquet (mostly using the CAT), combat gauze (he favors Celox), chest seals, and pressure bandages. As someone who has taken the two-day Dark Angel Medical class, this was a nice review for me. For those who had had no prior medical training, this session was probably a Godsend.
My memory is fuzzy, but I think it was at this point that Kyle did his block of instruction on targeting. That is to say, he showed us where to target a human in order to effect the most rapid incapacitation. He referenced his now popular terms of “timers” and “switches” and the best places on the body to target each of these areas.
The rest of the afternoon was spent entirely at the 7 yard line working on our draw. Kyle started by timing us individually how fast we could draw and get an upper A zone hit on an IPSC target. He also gave us a letter to remember (S, J, or P). On my initial draw and fire I made my hit and my time was a 1.90. And I was a J. After everyone had had their turn, Kyle demonstrated for us what the S, J, and P draws look like, P being the ideal to work towards.
I suppose I should note here that I was one of only two or three students who ran the entire course from concealment (using my Raven Concealment Eidolon, designed by Kyle, mounted on my Ares Gear Enhanced Aegis belt). A few of the police officers in class chose to shoot from their duty rigs, and other students used a variety of holsters mounted at about the 3 o’clock position on the belt (no lefties in the class) with no covering garments.
We continued to practice our drawing and firing with Kyle walking the line to make tweaks as needed. A number of the students required some major tweaks, and at least once I noticed Kyle stopping one student from holstering when the student’s shirt tail was in the holster opening (and the student failed to look…..earlier Kyle had stressed looking the pistol into the holster).
After a number of rounds of this, Kyle again walked the line having each of us getting a few repetitions in, looking to push the envelope on speed while maintaining our hits. To his credit, he made sure each student ended on a high note. For example, if a student shot a 1.60, then he would push him to go quicker, but if the student then shot a 1.50 but missed, he would have him go again and try to combine both. He would not stop until the student did so. This meant that some students got ten or more of these repetitions. I only shot four times, with a high A zone hit in 1.44. Not my all-time best, but I was pretty happy with it.
We wrapped up around 1700 with a brief question and answer session. Some students left but most of us stayed, as Kyle had a cooler of beverages on the tailgate of his truck that he offered to us. We used the opportunity for additional Q & A outside the basic subject matter of the course. The day ended with me having fired 223 rounds.
Training Day Two began at 0700 at Kyle’s request, as the orientation of the range vis-a-vis the early morning sun created shadow issues (shooting from sunlight into shadow). Since we would begin this day at 50 yards, Kyle did not want us working at a handicap. By starting early, our shooting positions as well as the targets were all in shadow. This is but one example of the little things that Kyle did or noticed; as I mentioned earlier, the guy misses nothing.
We began with ten rounds on a full IPSC target from the 50 yard line. I surprised myself by making 8 out of the 10 hits, including 3 in the A zone. We shot it again, theoretically knowing where to hold now versus from 25 yards, and this time I got 9 out of 10 on the silhouette with 4 A zone hits. We shot another string or two, then moved in to the 25 yard line.
From this new position, Kyle introduced the prone position to us (and once again was able to provide real-world rationale for learning how to shoot from this position). He showed us three different options for shooting from the prone and told us to practice each, live, to see which worked the best for our body type, flexibility, etc. None were of the “urban prone” style; all had head and arms toward the target and feet away. We shot three or four strings of ten rounds each from the prone, and I did quite well from this position, keeping most of my rounds in the black on the B-8 repair center target.
Next we moved to the kneeling position (we did both knees down as well as one knee down), again from 25 yards. There weren’t too many nuances to this. Essentially, the idea was to keep your upper body the same as when you shoot standing up, with a good wide kneeling base.
We next moved on to the first of our “movement” phases. Kyle showed us the utility of different ready positions and their relationship to moving. After instructing us and demonstrating how to move, we lined up at the 50 yard line in groups of four, well spread out. On Kyle’s command, we had to run down to the 25 yard line, fire 2 rounds, run to the 15, fire 2 rounds, run to the 7, fire 2, and then do it all coming back. The idea was to try out different positions to hold the gun while running, and how the distance you would be covering would dictate your speed, and how your speed would probably dictate how best to hold your pistol (low ready, high ready/port, etc.). Obviously, for some of the students in the class (law enforcement) who have SOPs they must follow, well, they must follow them. But they still got in some good repetitions. We did this drill two or three times.
Somewhere during this morning segment we also worked on malfunction drills. Kyle basically utilizes two different techniques for malfunctions, one for failures to fire and the other for any situation where the slide is out of battery (stovepipes, double-feeds, etc.). I liked the way he boiled everything down to just these two things, which limited the amount of thinking necessary and made things more automatic. It actually came in handy later in the day when I experienced my first ever stovepipe with my Glock 19 (over 6,500 rounds through that pistol now).
Later in the morning, we started to move into the more advanced stuff. I like that Kyle included this. I cannot stand it when an instructor says, “You’re not ready for this stuff. Come back and take my Intermediate class, then my Advanced class…” What if I can never again make it to a class with that instructor? Kyle did not address this issue, but to my way of thinking, I will continue to work on the fundamentals as taught throughout day one and the early part of day two, but I can then move on to more advanced stuff at my own pace when I am ready.
This portion of the class began at the 7 yard line with cadence shooting. Kyle gave a lengthy explanation before demonstrating all the drills himself. Each of us was given a target with four 8 inch bullseye-type targets. On the first target, we would be shooting at 1 second intervals, or splits. On the second target, .75 splits; the third .50 splits; and the fourth target .25 second splits. For each target/split, Kyle explained from how far away we could expect to shoot at each cadence AND what our sights would look like shooting at each speed. To date, he is the ONLY instructor I have ever had who has been able to articulate what his sights look like when shooting at each speed.
After he demonstrated each of the drills live, it was our turn to perform. We would shoot strings of 7-8 rounds on each of the targets at the cadence determined by the target number. We did this 2-3 times, so it was a quick way to blast through 90 or so rounds. I did okay on this. The faster splits will really test your grip integrity and sight-tracking ability. Like many students whose targets I glanced at, my first couple of shots would be okay but then the following ones would tend to drift upwards.
With the cadence work completed, we moved on to a short segment on Strong-Hand-Only work. As with everything we did over the two days, Kyle began by asking the class when this would be applicable; i.e., when would we most likely utilize only one hand. He then reviewed how he shoots strong hand only, which features the firing hand elbow pointed a bit more downward than when shooting with both hands. In with the Strong-Hand-Only segment was how to accomplish reloads using only this hand.
The last segment before lunch was one of the most eye-opening. Kyle demonstrated for us how to turn and shoot. I am not going to go into too much detail here. But let me just say that, if you do what Kyle teaches you to do, you will be as fast (perhaps even faster) turning to your left and shooting, turning to your right and shooting, and even turning 180 degrees and shooting, than you will be just standing there drawing and shooting. No special athletic ability and only a bit of flexibility was needed to pull this off. I WILL be practicing this stuff a lot.
We had a working lunch during which Kyle delivered his much-lauded over “mindset lecture”. I took careful notes during the lecture but this is something best experienced in person. In talking with John, I believe that some things about the lecture change from class to class depending on his target audience as well as on current events that Kyle might incorporate. But suffice is to say that, if you take a course with Kyle and get to hear the lecture, you will have some soul-searching to do about what you are able and willing to do in a variety of circumstances.
We finished Training Day Two with two more blocks of instruction. The first was moving while shooting. This, to me, was worth the price of the course. Kyle set up three stations utilizing small cones set up in cross or “plus” sign configurations. He then demonstrated how to shoot moving forward, moving left, and moving right. As he said (and I wholeheartedly agree), the “typical” pistol class that has you marching forward with heavy steps like Napoleon’s Old Guard, “shooting while moving”, is NOT shooting while moving. Likewise, shooting while moving was not what I had learned in some classes, “busting off the X” and blazing away with little regard to the accuracy of my shots or how far I am running (how much space is there to run in a room, on a sidewalk, or between cars in a parking lot?). This is of particular concern considering that, as you move, the background of your target is constantly changing, so that misses may become a huge hazard to those beyond the target. First round, solid, upper A zone hits are considered vital for this segment. This was all performed around the 7 yard line and I felt like I did pretty well.
The final segment was done over on the pistol pit doing some shooting around barricades on steel targets. Three barricades were arranged with the reduced A zone steel targets set about 10-15 yards away (two for each barricade position). Based on his experience as an assault team member, Kyle showed us the best way to minimize exposure to a threat while being able to get very solid hits on the targets. This required some decent balance and flexibility, but there was no switching hands crap or anything like that. This module piggybacked nicely on some of the work I did with Craig Douglas just a few months prior (see here), something I recall him calling “the magic shot”. This is something that I can easily practice dry or with a SIRT pistol in the comfort of my home. I ran through this drill two or three times from both sides of the barricade.
With that, we helped put away the barricades and steel targets and gathered in the shade around 1400 (our earlier start allowed for an earlier finish) for some more Q & A and then the handing out of certificates. I fired 274 rounds on Day Two for a total of 497 for the class.
This was an EXCELLENT class, one of the better ones I have taken. As one of the instructors available for open enrollment classes who has most recently left a special mission unit, what you get from Kyle is some of the most recent “scholarship” on various topics. He continues to innovate in both gear (U.S. Optics scopes, Eidolon holster, etc.) and tactics and techniques. I could see how some might view him as cocky; I just view him as EXTREMELY confident in his knowledge and abilities, and God help the mugger or jihadist who mistakes him for an easy mark.
What I probably liked most about this course was that it was not a “one and done” kind of a deal. Kyle gave us a ton of stuff to work on in our own practice and, unlike some other coursework I have done, I feel like practicing this stuff will have me improve not just at the stuff itself, but will be directly applicable to real-life encounters. I really like his opinion about shooting at distance. Just like some of the people he is contracted to train for low-visibility operations–where a pistol is the weapon they have with them most of the time–so it is for civilians like me. There is no way for me to know what shot I might have to take. While I suppose the odds are that it will be up close and personal, I will do everything I can to open up that reactionary gap and, if I can, take the shot when it suits me rather than my enemy. Accordingly, and as noted earlier, I need to once again rethink my choice in pistol sights.
On a side note, there were a small number of students in the class who either lacked understanding in how their pistols functioned or had some gear issues. For example, two students had DA/SA pistols (an HK and a Beretta) and seemed to have no understanding about how and, more importantly, WHY they need to decock their pistols before holstering. Kyle was all over that minutes into live fire on Day One, but he should not have had to do so. Likewise, there was one student with a saggy leather belt and an older leather inside the waistband holster, neither of which was conducive to success.
Accordingly, I would recommend this class to anyone who has their basics (marksmanship, weapons-handling skills, etc.) very well down, decent gear, a good attitude, and the money to spend on the class. I would definitely train with Kyle again.