After-Action Report: FPF Training’s DHS I
Overview: This two-day course is designed to orient the student to the principles of effective self-defense, and then school him in the fundamentals of effective practical shooting at conversational distances. It is not meant to provide the be-all/end-all in the self-defense realm, but to establish a solid foundation from which one can maintain currency in shooting skills and put the principles into practice.
Gear: All systems go (see my B.A.G. Day list, I used all but the scotch). One correction—rounds expended were about 600, not 400. I got the two mixed up because I counted the remaining boxes in the case of 1000 rounds that I brought. I subtracted correctly but posted the wrong figure. (Yes, I am an artillery officer... manual gunnery was never my strong suit.) I’d like to remark that a course like this with a relatively high round count also tends to reveal gear issues that might not present themselves during your biweekly 50-round range time. Also, you get to see what others are doing and using, and can draw your conclusions.
Progression: The first four hours are spent in lecture on and discussion of the principles of self-defense, the mechanics of violent encounters, and the nature of violent offenders. Key points are the effective use of the Cooper Color Code and related techniques for recognizing what is brewing, and then avoiding it, deterring it, disengaging from it. Part and parcel of this is also recognizing that that despite your best intentions and actions, you might have to fight for your life. And that’s what the rest of the course is about—solving a problem that came to you, winning a fight that someone else started.
One element that John inserted into the discussion on violent encounters was Boyd’s OODA Loop. As a Marine, I had heard of the OODA Loop years ago and embraced it as fact. I had not, however, considered it as a tool to examine encounters with violent criminal actors. Yet, there it is. I didn’t fully grasp this fact until John pointed out that if you’re in the first “O” of the cycle while the violent criminal actor is in the “A” of his cycle, you’re screwed. If, however, the roles are reversed, you began the day in Condition Yellow, and while observing your surroundings you pick up on someone, then you can rapidly cycle through to decisive action. The OODA Loop and the Color Code work in tandem. This is a teaching point I had not encountered before.
The range work was, I’m pleased to report, entirely geared to the practical. We shot at ranges of 3, 5, 7 and 10 yards. The first few strings of fire were at small round bullseyes to work out the stupids, but almost everything else was at life-size “bad-guy-with-a-gun” targets. The emphasis was on smooth execution of the basic draw from a concealed holster, smooth presentation with a consistent firm grip, alignment of the sights on the vitals of the target, a cleared front sight post, a smooth press of the trigger, and a good follow-through. Almost every shot began with a draw and ended with a holstering. As with any practical marksmanship exercise, you realize quickly that haste makes waste, but a smooth application of the fundamentals will (surprise, surprise!) result in an effective hit on the target. SMOOTH is the key. Starting out slow gets you to smooth; going smooth results in the right kind of speed.
Needless to say, John runs a hot range. You are expected to come up on the line with a loaded weapon and a full magazine. And when you're off the line you're expected to refrain from "casual gunhandling," as he calls it, while still topping off magazines. Hot range is the way to go, if you're interested in honing your skills. It definitely sharpens your awareness and demands full concentration.
Anecdotal Point: While discussing the sterling merits of flight as a means of avoiding a confrontation that you see in the works while in a good Condition Yellow, John remarked that for one of the members of the class that option was “somewhat limited.” This man, a retired Army officer and a very good shot, had a prosthetic leg. Of course, it was all in good fun and everyone laughed, not least the man himself. However, John then brought up a good side point: This gent’s threshold for a perceived deadly threat is different from someone else’s. He can’t flee as easily, and he’s at a disadvantage in any defensive techniques using his hands and legs. Thus, he’s left with three options—stay at home (unacceptable), get out early (preferable but not always possible), or stand and fight. What popped into my mind was the true moral of that story—don’t pick a fight with a one-legged man, because you might get more than you bargained for.
Conclusion: This is not a course for the novice who needs to learn how to shoot. This is a course for someone who understands basic marksmanship, to learn the principles of personal defense and practical shooting, and to form a foundation for further study. For two days of quality instruction, the price is right, in fact it’s downright cheap. It’s also structured effectively with classroom lecture and range time. Were I conducting it, I might have saved some of the lecture items to use during water breaks at the range, but I understand why John does it this way and besides, it’s his class not mine. I can easily see myself taking this class again, and I strongly recommend it to you.