This past weekend, I attended Kyle Defoor’s 2-Day Concealed Pistol Class held at the Blue Trail Range in Wallingford, CT. As with most of Defoor’s open enrollment classes, this one sold out within a day or so of being posted. This was the third time that I have trained with Defoor, and again I left impressed with the depth and breadth of his knowledge and his ability to impart that knowledge to students from varying backgrounds. I’ll go ahead and offer the standard disclaimer found on this blog, that I have no affiliation with Defoor Proformance Shooting other than being a paying customer.
I’ve long thought that it was a good idea to repeat classes with instructors that you’ve learned a lot from, simply because you can usually learn something new each time. This class was no different, although I would hardly call it a repeat. Indeed, “Concealed Pistol” is a bit of a misnomer, as the curriculum involved far more than work with a pistol. Further, Defoor flat out said at one point early on that no two of his classes are ever the same. He meets the class where they are, and teaches what needs to be taught. Indeed, he doesn’t even necessarily teach the fundamentals in the same order each time, instead identifying the common problem areas in any given group of students and addressing those first.
Defoor began the day with a comprehensive safety brief and medical plan in the event of a medical emergency. His safety brief is somewhat unique in that he stressed real world application of the safety rules and forces the students to understand that tactics and absolute adherence to established rules are incompatible. He stressed muzzle awareness in conjunction with trigger finger discipline and essentially said that if one of the two was going to be violated, that it was better to muzzle a non-threat with finger off the trigger. After all, guns don’t go off by themselves! Obviously, he discussed how to actually treat all guns as if they are loaded, and stressed awareness of foreground and background in relation to muzzle orientation outside of established shooting ranges. One thing that I have found to be unique to his classes was the discussion of how to correctly and safely pass live weapons and live blades between each other. He also established a protocol for leaving weapons downrange if they were out of the holster. Short version, muzzle downrange, and ejection port up.
We then moved down to the firing line. Before actually shooting, he took a look at what each of us was carrying, as well as how we were carrying. Appendix carry was prevalent, and there was quite a variety of pistols on the line including Glocks, a Sig P938, a CZ or two, and a few 1911s. For my part, I used my typical G19 Gen4 in a RCS Eidolon, with an ARES Gear Aegis Belt. Concealment garments were a minor issue for a few, as most of us were wearing multiple layers due to the cold morning. Defoor stressed the importance of having only one layer concealing the pistol, with everything else tucked in, and he pointed out considerations such as cord toggles found on the hems of many garments. We started slowly, actually not incorporating the draw until a little later in the day.
Defoor prefaced everything we would be doing over the course of the weekend by drawing a triangle on a cardboard backer with “Force,” “Time,” and “Space” making up the three corners. We would be learning the dynamics of that triangle in the next two days. Defoor stressed that we would need to “own” 2 out of 3 of the above points to win a confrontation.
Defoor first demonstrated his Pistol Test 1, then had us run (literally) through the test on the timer as a group. I think only one or two students actually passed the test. I certainly did not, due to both accuracy and time. Defoor then spent the remainder of our time before lunch addressing the fundamentals of marksmanship in his own unique style. I won’t claim that my shooting got any better throughout the morning, but this discussion made more sense to me than it did last class, and I took away a few new points that I missed last time around. Some big takeaways for me were related to the semantics and my understanding of parallel and angular deviation, the nuances of the grip, and weighting the back leg when shooting. This last one may seem counter-intuitive, but it works. Although stance is the last thing Defoor addressed, he favors a wide athletic fighting stance with the hips squared to the target. He prioritized grip as the most important fundamental and spent a lot of time on it. All of this material can be found on YouTube in various Trigger Time TV episodes that he’s done, but there’s nothing like hearing it in person with real time feedback. We started at the 25 yard line, where proper fundamentals are mandatory. We generally moved closer to the backstop throughout the morning, working on the draw, speed, and shot tempo. Defoor spent a good amount of time discussing pistol placement and drawing from concealment, both from appendix as well as from three o’clock. This work with the pistol took us through the morning, and into the afternoon after lunch.
After lunch, we again went down range and Defoor used drawings on a cardboard backer to discuss what he calls “switches and timers.” Namely, what areas on the human body are switches, and which ones are timers. By way of example, a brain shot would be considered a switch, and a heart shot is a timer. Throughout the morning, and especially in this segment, Defoor used a SIRT pistol that he had brought. I like the SIRT as an individual training tool, but it is also exceptional as a demonstration tool for instructors.
For the final block of instruction on day one, Defoor introduced the class to combatives, teaching us four specific techniques designed to gain space and time. All of them were simple and easily remembered, and devastatingly effective when performed properly. Before beginning, we all cleared and stowed any live weapons we had on us, replacing them with training knives and training guns.
Defoor started the block of instruction by asking what our plan was with an attacker within two yards, where a drawn pistol would be vulnerable to a weapon grab or displacement. And truthfully, this was an area where I really didn’t have a good plan. I’ve taken retention shooting classes, and I’ve taken a whole bunch of other shooting classes, but the circle of space around me within arm’s reach was an area that made me uncomfortable. Getting more comfortable in this space has been a priority for me lately, as evidenced by a lot of the coursework that I’ve attended or will attend this year.
With several students contributing personally owned gear, there were enough Thai pads for us to buddy up and have one for each pair of students. We learned and practiced elbow strikes, open hand strikes, elbow spear thrusts, and a similar open hand version based off the same footwork. The footwork is something that I need to practice more, as I don’t have a lot of body mass to throw into strikes. Defoor constantly stressed that we should be a good training partner in receiving the strikes, and paid close attention to the energy level of the students in gauging when to move on to new material. There was also a brief discussion of choke holds. All of these combative maneuvers have the potential to seriously harm an opponent, and all of them are designed to gain time and space to employ other tactics, whether that is accessing a weapon or simply running away.
Day two of class began with Defoor’s mindset lecture. Truly, it is the foundation to everything, and defines how to approach a problem, and indeed, even how to approach life and death.
After a brief Q&A session, we moved downrange to about the 7 yard line. Defoor essentially divided the range into two sides, with different shooting stations on each side. We spent the morning learning about retention and close range shooting (with our ready position being obviously dependent on distance to a target), multiple targets, target discrimination and shooting decisions, one handed shooting, and shooting from behind cover or concealment in the context of negotiating through or around structures. Defoor generally ran one side of the range with drills that required either a timer or commands, and the students rotated through the drills on both sides of the range as much as time allowed. One multiple target discrimination and decision drill that Defoor set up was particularly challenging, as well as enlightening in terms of realistic split times in real shooting situations. I found this material to be very much in line with material presented by Darryl Bolke and Wayne Dobbs at the Rangemaster Tactical Conference. We also practiced shooting on the move, left to right, right to left, and linearly toward a target. The keys here are keeping the hips and toes pointed in the direction you want to go, a two-handed grip on the pistol, and understanding maximum angle to targets. Defoor also explained in concrete terms why most “shooting on the move” is taught incorrectly or out of context and why more than 3-4 yards of movement is rarely needed. Those that go to a Defoor Proformance class with sacred cows enshrined in preconceived notions are in for a rude awakening. Good stuff with lots of practical information presented.
At Defoor’s request, we took a working lunch during which he presented his medical block of instruction. Having been involved in EMS for the past 16 years and having recently been through a trauma medicine class, I stayed on the periphery of the group for this discussion. I did still pick up a thing or two during the presentation I am glad that Defoor includes it in all of his classes now. Defoor attends TCCC training annually, so the information he provides is up to date and based on current evolution of battlefield care. For armed civilians and police officers, the information can literally save a life.
After our “lunch break,” Defoor gathered us around a table and had us lay out any knives or training blades that we had brought to class. He gave a very detailed interactive presentation on knife design and identified four specific attributes to look for when evaluating a knife for combative purposes. I must confess, I have a little less regard for my Clinch Pick now and am eagerly awaiting the arrival of the RAT blade that I have on order. One of the students in class had actually been invited to attend class by Defoor and as an acknowledged expert in blades, combatives, and survival skills, was able to contribute greatly to the class. I won’t name him here, but if you read RECOIL publications, or other gun and survival lifestyle magazines, you’ve read his writing.
For the final block of instruction, Defoor showed us how to integrate a blade into the combative techniques taught the day before, and showed us a targeting template to use with the blade. We again partnered up with training blades and practiced the skills taught. I have some minor concerns about how legally defensible these techniques might be, but if someone is trying to kill me, then that is my least concern.
The class wrapped up with a brief informal Q&A session and Defoor handed out certificates. Although I came nowhere near earning a hat (that will have to remain a goal for a future class), I did buy a t-shirt.
My round count for the class was 427, all Freedom Munitions 124 gr. FMJ. This number is variable, as the number of runs through various drills and the number of rounds shot is somewhat left up to the discretion of each individual student.
When you do the math of how many open enrollment classes Defoor offers per year and the limited number of students in each, it works out to around 200 students every year. I’m pleased to count myself among that minority. You can follow Defoor on social media, which is the best way to learn about his class availability.
I learned a lot over the weekend, both refreshing previous learning as well as being exposed to new techniques and ideas. My hope is that my experience in class will be a good preparation for the upcoming American Tactical Shooting Integrated Combatives course that Robert and I are enrolled in next month.
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