Thursday, October 3, 2013

Gunsite 499 Advanced Pistol - Day 5 - Part 2

By Dave Dargo

I've made it through the school drills and though I'm a little disappointed at my performance in the demi-presidente drill I'm pleased enough about my performance on the school-drills to feel pretty good.

Now it's time to climb into the back of a pickup truck and get a ride out to the force-on-force simulator. Because I've been through a 499 course before I'll be going last so they can change the scenario before I get there. I have a sense of anticipation, nervousness and eagerness to face the challenge. In each of the force-on-force simulations I've done I've learned a great deal from my mistakes and had enough fun that I wanted to do it again in order to improve.

I've had force-on-force simulation in the Gunsite 350 course, Team Tactics for Two course and, of course, the 499 course. The force-on-force simulation uses a product called Simunition. Simunition is a training round that allows individuals to fire at each other with non-lethal marking rounds. Though they are non-lethal they still hurt and require significant safety protocols and equipment.

Before we head to the force-on-force area we divest ourselves of all objects: keys, watches, pens, combs, knives, ammunition, etc. Things can get pretty exciting during the simulation and we don't want anyone improvising. We get a pat-down search, get in the vehicle and are driven to the site where we get wanded down with a hand-held metal detector. Then we wait our turn before donning the protective gear: helmet, goggles, neck and groin protectors.

We get the call to head down to the simulation site where a simunition gun is placed in our holster and told a scenario.

I won't tell you the scenarios I've had because it's important that you experience the full joy of discovering it for yourself. There is, however, very little given in the way of description. It might be something like, "You've arrived home and found the door ajar." You might not want to go into your own home after finding the door ajar but the scenario will develop enough that you will want to go inside. After that, well, that will be a surprise for your own visit as I wouldn't want to ruin the experience.

During the scenarios you will face role-players who have specific instructions and will perform specific actions based on your words and actions. Say or do the wrong thing and you will get shot. Say and do the proper things from a tactical perspective and you can emerge with no shots being fired by anyone. The goal is to emerge unscathed and victorious without shooting any no-shoot individuals. Even knowing it's a simulation doesn't prevent increased heart and respiration rates. The purpose of force-on-force simulation is to place the individual in as realistic a training environment as possible without anyone getting hurt.

At the end of the simulation everyone de-briefs about what was done properly, what could have been done better and what was done wrong. We discuss why certain actions were chosen and if they were the best option at the time. Sometimes you only have a choice between a bad and worse option. Sometimes you have a choice between bad, good and best options. The simulation is designed to help you select the best options available to you if you're ever faced with a situation.

One could perform 5,000 of these simulations and the outcome would be different each time because we're dealing with multiple humans making multiple decisions. However, certain patterns do emerge and best practices should become part of your repertoire.

After my simulations I wanted to do more. It's like getting on a roller coaster and after the ride is over you just want to go again. It wasn't to be, though, as it was off to the scrambler.

Here is a video someone posted on YouTube showing a good run on the scrambler with a rifle:

The targets are out to 105 yards and we ran it with a pistol. Of the seven targets I had two hits and was disappointed. But, then again, the targets were at a great distance and I was just having fun with the program.

After the scrambler it was time for our class shoot-off. Every class I've been to at Gunsite has had a shoot-off where the students compete against one-another shooting steel. In this challenge we were to start seated and on the go signal we had to stand up, knock over a block of wood with our shooting hand, draw from the holster and shoot one head plate about 5 yards away, an 8" lollipop target about 15 yards away, a mini-popper about 10 yards away, perform a speed reload and then hit our half of a split popper.

The first person to properly knock down their targets wins that match and, in a class of 11, we each get about six matches to determine the winner.

In my first match I was a split-second behind in shooting my split popper but had a .45 ACP round vs. a 9 millimeter round and drove my target down first winning the first match.

Finishing the speed reload before knocking down my final target

Out of my six matches I lost one, tying for second place. Again, a little disappointing given my competitive nature but not so much that I actually felt bad. In the individual match I lost I know exactly what I did wrong - it was my form in not having a stable enough platform. After that particular loss I stopped looking at the targets while I was sitting and started doing exactly what I had been trained to do. I stood up and properly established my stance, drew smoothly on the target and delivered my shots. I didn't lose another match but 5 out of 6 wasn't good enough. The winner won all six of his matches. This is the second shoot-off where the winner has had a red-dot optical sight on their pistol. I might need to get me one of those.

After the shoot-off comes graduation. Gunsite has multiple "grading" levels for their students at graduation: Demonstrated Sound Understanding, Marksman, Marksman First Class and Expert. I'm pretty much stuck on Marksman First Class and am happy with that. I'd like to, someday, achieve an Expert rating but am comfortable with my consistent performance and will keep going back to Gunsite for more training and refinement. Each time I go I learn something new and gain valuable experience.

September, 2013 499 Class Photo
I didn't get the memo and am in the blue shirt
I shot about 1,250 rounds during the week. I'm a little beat-up and sore but very satisfied with the course and Gunsite. I can't wait to go back. At graduation they commented that I had put myself through the pain of a 499 class twice in the same year. "But," I said, "it's only offered twice a year."

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