If you’ve read Robert’s most recent AAR, you already know a little about John “Shrek” McPhee. I have long been an avid consumer of the media put out by McPhee, appreciative of his no nonsense down to earth persona and dissemination of hard earned knowledge. Needless to say, I was jealous of Robert’s opportunity to train with him.
Fortunately, in addition to McPhee’s video diagnostics classes, he also offers a virtual online coaching service that allows people to send him videos to be critiqued by him with the same software and method used in his classes. I had been aware of this service prior to Robert attending class, but Robert’s experience convinced me to try it out. I normally shoot alone, but circumstances happily conspired to allow me to have my wife accompany me to the range and video me shooting. I’m going to delve into this process and the results more below, but let me just opine that if you can’t make it to class, the virtual online experience is worth every penny!
I want to provide a little personal background for the following discussion. I’ve written before that I consider myself to be only an average shooter at best, despite numerous training classes and literally years of practice. To date, my singular claim to fame has been winning the shoot off during a Gunsite 250 class. I feel as though I pretty much hit the peak of my shooting ability around the time I took Mike Pannone’s Covert Carry Class, and I seem to have regressed since. Ironically, McPhee just recently discussed “plateauing” on his SOB Tactical Facebook page, calling out the misuse of the term to describe inefficiency in shooting. Having now seen the video diagnostics of myself, I would agree that I have indeed been inefficient in my pistol manipulations. Make no mistake, with two children under two at home now, my free time is severely limited. I need to put the time in. But, making the best use of that time is what the video diagnostics will hopefully allow me to do.
McPhee offers a variety of packages for the online student. The basic package is a simple analysis of grip and stance ideal for those limited to restrictive range environments, with more expensive packages incorporating analysis of presentation and reloads. I chose the Warrior Package, with video diagnostics of my stance, grip, presentation, and reload. This is the “four shots” discussed by Robert in his AAR. Draw, fire two, perform a slide lock reload, and fire two. I actually had to film this on two separate occasions, as the first video I sent in was not of sufficient quality for analysis. Read the instructions for filming! I thought I had, but McPhee was kind enough to request a second video to critique and included links specifically describing how the video should be taken. Both times, I shot the drill cold, with no warm up or prior practice. Within a few days, I received four separate videos via a Dropbox link with McPhee’s verbal and visual drawing critique overlaid using the Coach’s Eye software. Without giving away any of McPhee’s proprietary methods, I have included some screen shots from the videos to help describe the results of the video analysis I received. In addition, McPhee offered to answer questions based on the video analysis he provided. I only took advantage of this for one question I had regarding grip and index, and had an email answer the same day.
In reading the following, understand that although there are some common mistakes and themes observed, seeing somebody else’s performance critiqued is nothing like having your own shooting analyzed. I would also suggest that it matters who critiques the video. An expert will be able to see things that others miss. By way of example, if I showed a 12-lead EKG to a layperson, I could explain the electrical activity of the heart in short order. But it takes significant education and experience to progress beyond simple rhythm analysis. Even as an experienced paramedic, I lack the depth of understanding that a cardiologist has when looking at and explaining a patient’s EKG. This is where McPhee excels, truly displaying a doctorate level of understanding of the bio-mechanics of shooting. What follows is a brief synopsis of what I’ve been doing wrong according to McPhee!
The first of the four videos I received back from McPhee analyzed my stance. In the video analysis, I was advised to lean forward more aggressively with my weight loaded onto the balls of my feet. While I have been shooting “nose over toes,” it wasn’t enough. I’ve also been looking over the sights on the pistol and need to bring my eyes, shoulders, arms, and gun into one plane. Although rolling my shoulders forward and lowering my head to the gun seems counter-intuitive, video doesn’t lie.
This is going to be the hardest thing for me to correct, I suspect. McPhee identified several deficiencies with my grip, specifically the placement of my support hand, firing hand thumb, and overall index. That he can do this simply by looking at a side profile of my grip without seeing a target is borderline incredible, but I can’t disagree with any of his criticisms. Again, video doesn’t lie.
For me, this is where the rubber meets the road. In looking at the video analysis of my presentation, it’s blatantly obvious that I’m wasting time searching for the sights at extension. While I thought that I had the gun high enough to find the front sight quickly, my video showed otherwise. In fact, I spend six tenths of a second at full extension, refining my sight picture. Instead, I should be refining my grip and sight picture on extension. This is an obvious conclusion, but the video showed what I was actually doing instead of what I thought I was doing. Lately, I’ve been struggling with how fast I can draw and fire an accurate shot from concealment, and this is one big reason why. One minor quibble that I have is that McPhee advocates clearing the cover garment with the support hand. Much of my recent training has incorporated one handed draws from concealment, so I think that I’ve subconsciously been using my strong hand to clear the garment and then trapping it with my support hand. I’m not sure that training one handed and two handed draws are mutually exclusive, but this is an area I will explore further.
Much like my draw, I have lately been disappointed with my reload times. And again, in terms of economy of motion, I’ve been inefficient and wasting time. In fact, the video analysis of my reload revealed my fundamental misunderstanding of my “work space.” This is at least partly due to my presentation, I think. I’ve been manipulating the pistol slightly below my line of sight, when I really should have had it higher up in my line of sight to the target. Seeing the tracing of the path of the gun during my reload shows that I have not been bringing it into my work space efficiently. Instead, I have been bringing the gun up, then down, and then back up and out. Furthermore, having the gun too low for manipulations leaves me looking over the sights rather than through them when I present the gun on subsequent shots. McPhee suggests bringing the gun directly back into the work space and then back directly out on essentially a straight line path. Again, this seems obvious, but the video showed that I didn’t do that.
In taking stock of all the above, I have much to work on. But McPhee’s feedback is not necessarily all critical. He also pointed out the things that I’ve been doing right and should continue. If you read about any of McPhee’s exploits in his time in the military, the term “actionable intelligence” gets used. In my mind, that’s exactly what he provides with his video diagnostics. While taking a class from an experienced instructor is invaluable, having the video diagnostics of what I need to work on available to me at any time is worth the modest fee that McPhee charges and is far more tangible than my own incomplete and possibly faulty memories and notes from prior training. One other positive point about video diagnostics is that it appeals to both auditory and visual learning styles. I have high hopes for improving my shooting ability and will definitely attend a future SOB Tactical class if my schedule allows.
For me, the true test will be seeing how I perform when I train with Mike Pannone again in October. By then, I will have had at least some time to implement the changes suggested by McPhee. Obviously, I will report my results here on the blog.
For our readers that don’t have the time or resources to get to a class, I think McPhee’s online training is a worthwhile investment. Even if you do regularly train and take classes, I think spending $40-$80 on video diagnostics is a good use of your training budget. Even if you don’t agree with everything McPhee suggests, it’s hard to ignore the reality of his criticisms from an economy of motion perspective. Video doesn’t lie!
You can find out more about Gunfighter U at www.gunfighteru.com. Thanks for reading, and as always, we welcome your comments and questions either here on the blog or on our Facebook page.