… With A Side Of Salsa, Please
By John Connor
At my range, there are certain advantages to being big, scarred, ugly and weird. The image is heightened by raggedy post-apocalyptic clothing, and fancy fashion accessories like my dented straw sun helmet and a lunar-lander walker-cane wrapped in Camo Form digi-cammie tape. I would also carry a katana with its sheath stuck through a sash, if it didn’t keep getting bollixed up with my cane and trippin’ me. My compromise on that is a World War I German trench knife jammed under my belt. I’m all about the bling, y’know.
The effect is also enhanced by being known as “that psycho Connor character.” For one thing, bored, wandering, busybody Range Safety Officers tend either to pointedly leave you alone, or approach you very gingerly — especially if they’ve heard about the RSO who disturbed my shooting for no good reason. The look on his face was so cute when I lurched up close and roared, Trouble not the tiger in his lair nor the lion at his meat, manling! I ’bout tinkled myself snickering after he fled.
Later, the club prez reproved me gently, but I had a good excuse for my sand-blasting decibel level: “We both had ear plugs in. You know how that is.” He just laughed and shook his head.
I’d get a lot more self-training done at the range if folks weren’t always comin’ up — behind me! — which sorta freaks me out — to ask about the training classes they presume I’m giving. I’m not. Wrong guy for the job.
Yeah, I’ve done lotsa teaching over lotsa years. But, for about 45 percent of it, my students’ qualifications were often limited to herding goats, harvesting millet and getting stomped by invading armies. Another 45 percent was spent training police SWAT units and pre-tuned military personnel. With Group A, the emphasis was on “sneak, peek, shoot & scoot.” With Group B it was weighted toward blinding speed and overwhelming violence. Both groups were rapt, intent learners and each, in their ways, taught me as much as I taught them.
The remaining 10 percent was made up of training a wide and varied mix of American civilian shooters. From them I learned first, many were better shots than most metro cops. Second, the weapon-handling skills of lots of these “amateurs” were right up on par with some high-level military people — and they didn’t even know how good they were. But muddling in their midst were mugs who flat scared the kapok outta me, frequently prompting me to scream “If ya muzzle-sweep me one more time, ya moron, I swear I’ll pop a pill right through yer gourd!” While the miscreants pouted and sulked, I went off and checked my shorts for passed peach-pits.
Such frankness, I was advised, was “impolitic.” Thus endeth my career in “open-to-public” training. Generally speaking, I’m not cut out for “general” activities.
Once they learn I’m not offering classes, folks wanta know what kinda drills I run for myself — suspecting I possess some secret sauce for success. Nope; most of it is more like plain soy sauce. Here’s an example:
My 1911’s aren’t in my daily-carry battery anymore. To me, that means I must shoot ’em from time to time lest they become strangers to my hands. I picked up this drill from a guy who owned two Italian restaurants and had seven kids, so he didn’t have much time to spend shooting the 1911 he packed every day. Once a week he stopped at my old PD range and bought a flat of 50 rounds of .45 ACP reloaded ball. At 25 yards, starting with a chambered round and seven in the mag, he methodically fired two mags right-handed, then two mags left-handed, doing both lefty and right-handed reloads. Next up were two mags rapid-fired 2-handed. He finished with one mag fired slowly and precisely, going for the tightest possible grouping. Fifty rounds, well invested in very little time.
It’s a KISS thing. It works. Both your weapon and your basic skills are tested, and “muscle memory” refreshed, all in a measurable way. For me, it either reveals rusted reflexes, or provides reassurance; sometimes both.
My regular “default drills” are based on basics you can get from any number of books and videos. Then, I admit, I add a little salsa and spicy stir-fry sauce. This is both to challenge and entertain me, and also, certain aspects of it help keep looky-lous (looky-lice?) from milling around behind me, or worse — approaching me.
Range essentials: Multi-sized cardboard targets, shot timer, Kraut
trench knife, Tibetan monk’s beads and Corning TB6-Y Tactical Banana.
Adding The Salsa
A good but plain-Jane drill you prob’ly know pits the shooter against two to four standard IDPA/ USPSA cardboard torso targets. Using a shot-timer like the PACT Club Timer III, from the beep, put two rounds in each, slow enough to assure all hits are in top-scoring zones. Check your elapsed times. Push faster until you start dropping rounds outside the sweet spots, then back off, slow down and work your way up again. Maybe you integrate a reload. It’s sound, but it lacks panache. Kick it up.
Between and around those full-size cardboards, add in half-size*, and some 10″ and 5″ mini-torsos**. Vary your drills; don’t just shoot left-to-right and back again. Shoot the little guys first, then the larger ones or vice versa or “Connor-versa,” which appears to onlookers to be a spazz-pattern. It is actually coldly calculated — by a spazz. Me.
The variety is healthy. You can snap-shoot the full and half-size targets, but the minis force you to concentrate, bear down and get squinty. Sure, program reloads in too, and switching from right to left hand. Now add more fun with malfunction drills: Say you have 10 identical 15-round magazines and six inert dry-fire rounds. In six mags, stagger placement of duds, like second round in one, sixth round in another, blah-blah. Then mix the mags up so you don’t know where the surprises are. And on the timer, give yourself no slack for correcting your malf’s. Now for the spicy stir-fry sauce:
Between sweeps of the targets, while gripping your pistol in one hand, bring your other hand back, touch your thumb to your nose, waggle your fingers vigorously, and shout as loudly as possible “O ye sinners, now shall ye repent! Let the Great Slaying begin!” or, “For freedom, Fritos and chicken-fried steak!” or, “Back awaaay from the bulgogi and nobody gets hurt!” Note: Never mess with my bulgogi. Never.
Or, try shouting “I love you and blood sausage too!” — but shout it in German; makes it confusing and terrifying. Ich liebe dich und blutwurst auch!
Exercising exemplary muzzle control and strictly observing all range safety protocols, slump your shoulders, hang your head and slowly turn around, looking dazed, lost, spaced-out … Then, by degrees, “recover consciousness” and smile. It’s unlikely anyone will be there by this point, so that smile can be very genuine. If any looky-lou’s are still present, they’ll prob’ly be frozen like deer caught in headlights. Perfecto!
If you see me at the range and I’m munchin’ a sammich and sippin’ coffee, stop and say howdy. But if I’m shooting drills, well … Trouble not, etcetera. Connor OUT
*Available from MidwayUSA.com and other providers. **Go to BenStoegerProShop.com; see “Scaled Dry-Fire Targets.”