Lessons From Rogers Shooting School

By Massad Ayoob

“Back in the day” Bill Rogers was an FBI agent who found a better way to design and manufacture duty holsters, and literally changed the paradigm. I recently mentioned in Cop Talk how many law officers owe their lives to Rogers-designed security holsters that refused to yield their contents to gun-snatching punks. FBI agents who know the Bureau’s history remember Rogers as the man who, more than any other, changed the face of their agency’s firearms training from old school to modern. This legacy was carried on by John Hall when he ran the Firearms Training Unit at Quantico and those who succeeded him. Competitive shooters remember when Bill Rogers shot the pro tour from early IPSC to Bianchi Cup, and became one of the men to beat.

Today, serious pistoleros from SEALs to SWAT cops to Grandmaster competitors consider Rogers’ training, particularly his advanced course, to be a grail, a landmark of competence in fast, accurate “real world” shooting.

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Seen from downrange, all students take turns painting the Rogers plates.

The School

Bill’s range is in the picturesque hills of Ellijay, GA, and the core firing “cell” consists of his own target array, times six. In each of the six bays sit seven pedestals from which small, head-sized pneumatic steel plates rise to expose themselves to the shooter, for as little as half a second at a time. It’s a concept he has been using for more than 30 years.

The underlying principle? A steel disk that falls down when hit is a reaction target, and an opponent trying to kill you is the ultimate reaction target. “Watch the front sight” is a whole lot easier to accomplish on paper than when your mind is screaming “Front sight Hell, has that thing I’m shooting at fallen down yet?!?”

Bill preaches “PIR,” or “Positive Instant Recognition.” The theory is when execution of a physical skill is recognized by an instant positive result, mind and body correlate it and groove it in quickly. He explains, “If you can hear, feel and see that result within about 300 milliseconds of your successful action, the mind forms a ‘mental trace’ or what would be medically called a ‘neural pathway.’” More than three decades of intensive training with the most serious shooters in the world has validated Rogers’ approach.

Bill strongly believes the gun hand should be on the same side as the dominant eye, and in his Basic classes will very much encourage a cross-dominant student (i.e., a right-handed shooter with a left master eye) to shoot with the non-dominant hand. In the Intermediate/Advanced class, the one I would recommend for the trained peace officer or armed citizen, this is advocated but not demanded. Rogers will tell such shooters to bring the gun on the draw directly under the dominant eye as the weapon is coming up, not to the center line of the torso.

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Bill Rogers demonstrates his preferred Isosceles stance.

Flip And Press

Bill’s philosophy is “on-target, on-trigger” because he recommends a gun drawn on a criminal suspect be held down at a low ready and not directly aimed at the foe. If the need is to shoot the “target” immediately, he wants you “prepping” the trigger and taking out the slack as the gun comes up — after the decision to shoot has been made. Bill breaks reaction time down to quarter seconds: a quarter to react to the stimulus, a quarter to get the gun up on target, etc. He doesn’t want added time to get the finger on the trigger before the pull can start, given that break time between shots is a quarter second right there for most people.

He has a unique approach to trigger manipulation he calls “flip and press.” After the shot, the trigger is “pinned” or held back, and when the next shot is needed, the finger is quickly flipped forward entirely away from the trigger, and then comes back for the next fast, controlled press. He doesn’t teach the vogue-ish “ride the link” concept because, under pressure, he has seen so many shooters fail to return the trigger all the way forward to re-set and become unable to fire a shot.

“Flip and press” seems counterintuitive but countless cops and combat soldiers who’ve gone through Rogers School have found it works. Bill doesn’t recommend light triggers. Only four people have shot a perfect score on the 125-target, 9-stage test; only Bill has done it three times, twice using a Glock 17 with a 5.5-lb.trigger and once with a stock trigger pull weight S&W M&P9.

The Intermediate/Advanced Class is limited to 18 students working on six Rogers Range arrays of seven target pedestals each, in three relays. One relay shoots, one relay coaches and one relay is refilling magazines. It’s “fast and furious,” which is how they get 2,500 rounds into four-and-a-half days and a couple of evenings. It also recognizes experts in a discipline need to know how to share their knowledge and coach others.

My class included four LEOs among the 18. Half a dozen in our class achieved the very demanding Advanced certificate. I was one of the two sworn officers who did, 33 percent, though we cops constituted only 22 percent of the class. Everyone came out of it shooting better. It was a week very well spent.

For more info: www.rogersshootingschool.com.

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