This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to be able to train with Michael Seeklander, owner of Shooting-Performance, LLC. I’m not sure exactly when I first started following Seeklander, but suffice it to say I’ve been paying attention to what he’s been putting out for quite some time now. He hosts the excellent American Warrior Show Podcast and is co-host of The Best Defense on the Outdoor Channel, has written several books, and shares a great deal via social media and email. If you’re not following his Shooting-Performance Facebook page and watching his Live stream appearances, you’re wrong! For those few that might not be familiar with him, Mike Seeklander has an impressive and extensive bio. He is a former Marine, has been a police officer, was the lead firearms instructor for the Federal Air Marshals, was a senior instructor at FLETC, and was the C.O.O., Director of Training, and a Senior Instructor at the United States Shooting Academy. He is also a sponsored competitive shooter, and is the 2018 IDPA national champion. Needless to say, when I learned that he was teaching a class nearby, I signed up immediately.
The class was his “2-Day Defensive Handgun Level 1,” and was held at the ACADEMI Training Center in Salem, CT. This is an indoor range facility, a virtual necessity in the Northeast in winter. More on this later. If the name seems familiar, yes they are affiliated with the famed Moyock, NC training facility. Price of the class was a very reasonable $415 plus $50 range fee. As is typical, other than being a full price paying customer, I have no affiliation with either Shooting-Performance or ACADEMI.
The class was billed as “a piece of” Seeklander’s “total training system,” reinforcing techniques covered in his book Your Defensive Handgun Training Program. This is an accurate description, and I would personally describe the class as a deep dive into the fundamentals of defensive handgun techniques. Not only does he teach you to shoot, he teaches you how to practice and train to get better. Many of the drills in class were familiar to me from watching his videos, but there is a definite advantage in hearing and seeing the material presented in person, vs. reading or watching it. Having now learned the material directly from the source, I may be changing the way I do a few things. One of Mike’s strengths is that while he is not dogmatic about technique, he is very deliberate about what he teaches and why. I can think of at least three or four things that he has me reconsidering. All are really just small nuances, but all make sense.
Seeklander started the class in the classroom above the range, covering safety, course content, and his training and teaching philosophy. We then moved down to the range and began a very deep dive into the fundamentals of pistol shooting. Stance, building the grip, sights and vision, trigger control, the draw stroke, and much more were all covered on day one. We began with a simple five round drill that was diagnostic in nature and progressed from there. I found the drills involving scanning and assessing after a shooting to be particularly provocative. I’ll admit, I didn’t see everything the first or even second time around. As I mentioned above, I was already somewhat familiar with many of the drills that Seeklander uses, but seeing them taught in person really helped to put them in context. Many times, we would dry fire the drills before shooting them live, and Seeklander always demonstrated every drill first. Seeklander excels at explaining the why of what he teaches, and it all made sense. The day ended with an opportunity for students to use free range time to practice what ever they felt they needed to work on. I fired exactly 270 rounds on day one.
Day two began downstairs on the range, and Seeklander had each of us repeat a five round pace drill from the day before, except that we each did it individually in front of the rest of the class with Seeklander and the entire class critiquing our performance. The timer was never brought out in two days, but this exercise offered sufficient stress to reveal flaws in our technique. For my part, I was at least guilty of some trigger creep, rather then getting right back on the trigger for the next shot. Drills on day two were again mostly familiar to me, but the specific reasons behind the techniques that Seeklander teaches became clear. He taught us pivoting draws and offline movement, use of cover and concealment, one handed shooting, and a unique drill to practice what to do if you need your gun while you’re out in a crowded public space, either as the only armed individual or with friends or family that are also armed. Again, he has well thought out reasons for everything he teaches and it all made sense. Day two on the range concluded with another opportunity to practice during free range time. My weak hand shooting needs some work! On day two, I fired 261 rounds, for a total of 531 over the two days. I’ll talk about round count a little later. After quickly policing the range, we returned to the classroom upstairs where Seeklander handed out certificates and graduated the class.
I mentioned above that I may be changing the way I do a few things based on this class. Long time readers of the blog will be familiar with my struggles with my grip. Mike spent a great deal of time on building the grip, and for me, this was worth the price of admission alone. Although I definitely need to get stronger, I now really feel like I better understand how to consistently build a solid grip on the handgun. This may seem elementary to some, but for me it was pretty profound, and more importantly, repeatable. I could feel when I got it, and definitely when I didn’t. Mike specifically discussed removing vision from the equation and actually feeling what the gun is doing in your hands. Everybody got marks drawn on their hands when they felt that they had a good grip established. Those marks may not have necessarily matched up throughout the entirety of the day of shooting, but the important part was that they didn’t move during a string of fire. If you ever find yourself re-gripping the gun during strings of fire, then your grip needs work.
I’m also probably going to change my draw stroke. Up to now, I’ve essentially been doing a form of the Hackathorn rip to clear my concealing garments. Seeklander teaches a one handed sweep that will work whether you are wearing an open front or closed front garment and whether or not you have one hand available or two. I had already been playing with it after watching him demonstrate it on Facebook Live, and it seems to work well. As we progressed in the drills, his reasons for teaching a one handed draw became obvious.
I’m also reconsidering how I shoot one handed. Up to now, I had settled on canting the gun and wrapping my thumb down around the grip. Although Seeklander discussed multiple ways to shoot with one hand, his preference is to have the gun upright with the arm and body behind the gun with a flagged thumb. I’m paraphrasing here, but one of the major takeaways for me from this class was his statement, “Don’t let what feels comfortable dictate what you do, let the gun’s recoil and recovery dictate what you do.” That’s really hard to argue with!
Finally, I need to further explore shooting from behind cover. Seeklander’s preferred method is subtly different from what I’ve learned from some very high speed guys in the past, and again, reinforcing the theme of this AAR, it just makes sense. In short, he favors rolling out from behind cover as opposed to leaning out. This is definitely something I need to work on with another trained individual at some point.
In a debrief at the end of day two, Seeklander made the point that almost everything we learned in the course was covered with a lot of details. I would agree with this, as I definitely learned some new things about seemingly straightforward skills. I think this is an excellent course for both relatively new as well as experienced shooters. Both can take something away from this class. Indeed, our group of 16 had students from both camps. I still don’t consider myself to be a particularly good shooter, but I would definitely consider myself an experienced shooter. Seeklander’s methods obviously work, as evidenced by one newer shooter that started off with a pronounced nose dive of the muzzle with every trigger press but ended with some respectable groups. Mike gave him the attention needed to improve his skills in class, and gave him the tools to continue his progress after class. At all times, Mike was open to questions about tactics and techniques, and wanted to make sure that we understood what he was trying to communicate. In short, he’s an excellent teacher and instructor.
I mentioned my total round count earlier. I don’t really judge a class on round counts, and I think a lot can be learned without necessarily firing a single shot. Having said that, the class description called for 1200 rounds. Seeklander addressed this at the beginning of class, saying that the round count for would be variable depending on each individual student, and he wanted to make sure everybody had enough. Still, there’s a lot of difference between 531 and 1200. I’m not sure whether this might have been due to us running two and sometimes three relays or overall class shooting ability, or some other factor. At the end of the day, I’m not worried about it, since I’ll wind up shooting the ammo and needing more before the year or even next few months are done.
There was also an optional low light module offered on Saturday night for $50. Having read and reviewed Seeklander’s book on low light techniques, I was excited to be able to get some quality low light training for such a good price. Unfortunately, only three people signed up for it, so it was cancelled. Part of me is disappointed that not enough people were motivated enough to sign up, but the other part of me reflects on the fact that none of Tom Givens’ 60+ students that have had successful gunfights have reported needing a light. In truth, we were all a bit tired, and a 12 hour day on the range would have been a long day and late night indeed.
The range itself was a nice facility, although I much prefer shooting outside, even in winter. Lighting and ventilation were excellent, but inside the actual range was very loud. The range is split into two bays with a concrete divider between the two areas. While the class occupied one side, the other side was open to the public firing pistols, rifles, and shotguns. Electronic ear pro was almost a constant necessity, and several times Seeklander would have to pause when explaining something to be heard over volleys of gunfire. Some of this was theatrical for humor and levity, and some of it was out of necessity. Obviously, a public range can’t shut down for an entire weekend and the class more than likely wouldn’t have been possible without an indoor range this time of year, but it was still a small annoyance. Overall, I don’t really think it detracted from the class. I’m just happy that I was able to train with Seeklander and I’m glad to have found a place that hosts IDPA and USPSA. Indeed, I may investigate competition more as my schedule allows. The host(s) did an awesome job keeping everything running smoothly on the range and did take steps to try and mitigate the noise issue on day two.
For the entirety of the course, I used my EDC Boresight Glock 19 with three MagPul 10 round magazines and Federal AE 147 grain FMJ. I used the same old Fricke Archangel Holster and single mag pouch that I’ve been rocking for awhile. I keep coming back to that holster… and it keeps on working well for me. I experienced no malfunctions, although I’ve noticed that my slide has been intermittently going back into battery upon aggressively seating a magazine. A new Vickers Tactical Slide Stop is en route from Tango Down as I type this.
As an aside, I also concluded that I needed a new piece of gear. I have relied on the OEM Glock mag loader that comes with the pistols for years, thinking it perfectly adequate. I have also resisted buying a Maglula Ltd. UpLULA, deeming it not worth the expense. Even though I have one for AR mags (thanks Georg!), little did I realize just how much better of a design the pistol version is. Another shooter offered to let me use a spare one that he had after he watched me using the Glock version. (The MagPul mags seem to have particularly stout springs.) I was sold on the concept within one magazine and I’ve already purchased one for my range bag. In fact, I like the Maglula UpLULA so much, I’ve added it to our Recommended Gear page. Thanks Charley!
To conclude this AAR, I’m going to recommend that you look up Mike Seeklander and check out what he offers. He puts out a tremendous amount of material for free, and his books and lesson plans are worth purchasing. Check out his classes and train with him if you get the chance. No matter whether you consider yourself a defensive shooter, a competitive shooter, or just simply a shooter, Seeklander can probably help you to be better. Also, check out his American Warrior Society. It promises to be a clearinghouse of invaluable information related to self reliance.
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