When I first started shooting, I loved using a laser for practice because it made sighting easy. When I started training seriously, I realized that the laser has a downside: it trains you to look at the target instead of the sights. I became very anti-laser and thought that they trained in bad habits.
Post TigerSwan, I’ve started using the laser again in one drill. Draw the gun, make sure you have a perfect grip and a perfect stance. Put the laser on a target. Pull the trigger perfectly. If you are doing everything right, the laser will not move at all. Not a millimeter.
I’ve found it very useful in diagnosing from “good enough” and “perfect.” Like shooting at 25 yards, it makes small mistakes apparent immediately.
JayG took his son and a friend out to the range. The predictable result occurs. Smiles and fun all around. And the money quote:
And I had the best feedback EVER from my son the very next day: “Dad, when can we go to the range again?”
Well done, sir. And welcome, TheBoy and Miss Z to the ranks of gunnies.
In the run-up to our TigerSwan class, I posted a list of things that I thought a shooting school should feature. Here is my final report card for TigerSwan:
- An appropriate understanding of the mission. Grade: A. TigerSwan teaches “two well placed shots on in an assailant.” This is perfectly appropriate for the armed citizen.
- A doctrine that is focused on meeting the needs of the shooter. Grade: A. We got top notch instruction at the level we were at, and appropriate encouragement.
- A focus on the fundamentals. A+. “Simplicity in the basics” is a perfect description of this.
- Drills that you can use. A. We got a set of drills that we could use at home, on any range, and a way to improve them as our skills progressed.
- At the right time, a focus on force-on-force. Grade: N/A. I’d expect to see this in a tactical class, but it is a bit much to expect for a one-day class.
- Finally, and this should go without saying, safety, safety, safety. Grade: A. Great emphasis on safety.
Final grade: A. Get thee to TigerSwan. Top notch instruction at a great price.
This is part 2 of my comparison between Gunstite and TigerSwan. Part dealt with doctrine, and can be found here. Part 2 will deal with the class itself.
In some ways, comparing Gunsite 250 and the TigerSwan introductory pistol course is an apples-and-oranges comparison. 250 is a 5-day course, TigerSwan is a one day course. Having said that, there are some notable comparisons.
Gunsite begins with the school drills. The Gunsite basic drills are:
3 yards, 1.5 sec, 2 shots COM, from the holster
5 yards, 2 sec, 2 shots COM, form the holster
10 yards, 5 sec, 2 shots COM, from the holster
15 yards, 7.5 sec, 2 shots COM, kneeling, from upright and from the holster
25 yards, 10 sec, 2 shots COM, rollover prone, from upright and from the holster
Obviously, since the drills include kneeling and rollover prone, that kind of implies that the school teaches kneeling and rollover prone. Gunsite also teaches turns and some barricade work and use of cover. Gunsite begins with dry-fring, and then rapidly progresses to timed fire through the school drills. 25 yards is the furthest shot, and it is from the prone. Gunsite also teaches some multi-shot drills, including the Dosier drill and the El Presidente drill. The class also includes four different simulators (shoot-house exercises) and a night shoot.
The TigerSwan course is, necessarily, a little simpler. Without the simulators, I would put the Gunsite training at two and a half days versus one day at TigerSwan. Still, they manage to get in dry fire, basic drills, draw from the holster, and getting two well placed hits on target by the end of day one. They also teach basic malfunction drills. Not bad for a one day course.
The major difference from day one is that Gunsite emphasizes “good enough” accuracy (A zone hits from the distance above) combined with more complicated drills, footwork, etc, whereas TigerSwan emphasizes perfect accuracy from the beginning, and only then moves on to the more complicated skills. Students see rapid progress in their marksmanship. I was making 6 out of 10 10 ring hits at 25 yards. Anyone who has seen me shoot will tell you that is nothing short of amazing for me. Now that I have a solid base, I’m ready to start on speed.
The student/instructor ratio is higher at Gunsite. We had 2 instructors for 11 students at TigerSwan. I’d like to say that Gunsite was 4 for 12. Despite that, I didn’t feel like there was not enough feedback; Paul and Brian caught me making mistakes enough to say that these guys didn’t miss a beat.
Gunsite runs a hot range from the first moment you step on the line. TigerSwan runs a cold range in the morning, and transitions to a hot range in the afternoon. The range at TigerSwan is a little looser than they are at Gunsite, in the sense that because Gunsite adds the clock early on, drills are pretty much synchronous. Everyone does the same thing at the same time. At TigerSwan, it was not uncommon for a drill to start and have a shooter join the drill mid-way through. Both schools have high levels of range safety, and I was completely comfortable with the safety of both schools.
At the end of the day, both schools offer something different. Having been through Gunsite 250 and 350, I can say that they offer top notch instruction. TigerSwan managed to perfect my marksmanship to a level that I didn’t think was possible. I can’t wait to take the TigerSwan two day tactical class, if for no other reason than to broaden my experience. Gunsite offers more simulators, and does a great job teaching you to shoot under stress. From a financial perspective, Gunsite it worth the money, even including airfare, hotel, and car rental. TigerSwan, at $200 and change for the day, is simply ridiculous. It would be worthwhile at two or three times the price.
I’ve loved my experience at both schools, and I wouldn’t trade anything for the experience I’ve gained at both. As an armed citizen, I feel that it’s my duty to continuously improve my shooting skills, and so I will continue to maintain an annual training budget. Plus, gun school is just plain fun!
I wanted to talk a little bit about some of the differences between my experience at Gunsite and TigerSwan. I’m going to break this up into two articles: one on doctrine, and one on training.
Gunsite was born out of the doctrine of Col. Jeff Cooper. Col. Cooper began hosting shooting competitions in the late 50’s in an effort to develop the skills and techniques that would allow one to out hits on targets as fast as possible. At the time, conventional thinking regarding fast shooting was a quick draw followed by one handed shot from the hip. (Take a look at cowboy movies of the time period for some good examples.) Over time one competitor, Jack Weaver, began to dominate the competition. His technique was markedly different from that of his competitors. Cooper and others refined this technique, and it evolved into what Cooper called the “Modern Technique of the Pistol.” The technique comprised the following elements:
- The eponymous “Weaver Stance” — A two-handed grip, with the pistol brought to eye-level. The strong hand pushes the pistol forward, the weak had pulls back. This “isometric tension” is intended to help control recoil and eliminate movement.
- The “flash sight picture” — With a flash sight picture, the shooter brings the pistol on target, then check’s alignment with the use of the sights. The focus is on the front sight, not on the target.
- The “surprise break” — under the surprise break, the shooter is not consciously aware of the precise moment of when the pistol will discharge . Rather, the shooter focuses on keeping the sights aligned and increasing pressure on the trigger until the gun discharges. The shooter follows through to ensure proper sight alignment until the bullet leaves the barrel.
The “Modern Technique” was developed out of competition shooting. TigerSwan’s technique was also developed out of competition shooting, as well as the doctrine of our “high speed low drag” military shooters. TigerSwan has had 50 years of incremental development in their technique. From a technique perspective, the two schools are very similar. However, there are some notable differences.
While the Gunsite uses the Weaver technique, with an even grip and push/pull isometric tension, the TigerSwan technique uses a grip with an extreme thumb forward hold on the weak hand. This brings more of the weak hand’s palm in to support the strong hand. Whereas Weaver describes a 60/40 grip strength between the weak and and strong hand, TigerSwan calls for the strong hand to be “a firm handshake” and the weak hand as strong as possible.
The TigerSwan grip feels a little weird at first (ok, it feels a LOT weird at first), but as the day wore on, I had gotten used to it. It has at least one tremendous advantage over the traditional Weaver: it us much easier to index your hand on the gun. After you get past the initial feeling of weirdness, you can feel right away whether or not your hands are in the right position. There is also a lot less movement possible in your wrists, simply because your are already at your full extension.
A second departure that I noticed as that while the Modern Technique is a heritage of the 1911 pistol, the TigerSwan technique is very much a product of modern, polymer framed service pistols. This is evident in subtle ways. Where Gunsite teaches a five count draw (Grip-Clear-Click-Smack-Look), emphasizing the function of the 1911’s manual safety (“Click”), TigerSwan teaches a simpler three step draw. Also, the slow fire drills are 10 round drills, rather than the Gunsite drills which were sort of based around the 7 round 1911.
All in all, I believe that TigerSwan has done a great job of modernizing the Modern Technique. Next, we will take a look at the schools from a training perspective.
“This is not a tactics class.” Brian Searcy, one of the co-founders of TigerSwan was very clear. “Tactics change based on the environment. We are here to teach you how to execute the basics properly, every time you pull the trigger.”
Brian is an impressive guy. He spent 16 years in the 1st Special Forces Detachment – Delta (yes, kids, that would be Delta Force), retiring as that unit’s Operations Sergent Major. Like most folks that I have met from elite units, he is remarkably understated about his accomplishments. (“Well, when we were in Iraq, teaching guys how not to get blown up…”, “Why do I like the Glock? Well, I carried it for 8 years in the Balkans…”) Brian was an excellent instructor. He offers criticism where appropriate, but also offers encouragement. On a particularly bad string, I was lamenting my performance. Brian told me that I was looking at it wrong. “Don’t focus on the fact that you dropped 8 shots. You executed perfectly 20% of the time. Next time do 30%.” This encouraging, and yet results oriented feedback is the hallmark of TigerSwan training.
The instructors had us take the line at the 25 yard mark with an NRA B-16 target. Are you kidding me? Every other shooting class that I have taken starts at somewhere near the 3 yard line. “10 shots, slow fire” My first string was all over the place. TigerSwan starts shooters at the 25 yard line for one simple reason: it’s much easier to diagnose what you are doing wrong. Problems that are masked at close range become readily apparent at 25 yards. And if you aren’t doing something right, you will see it right away at 25 yards.
By mid-morning, we were scoring our targets. This gives the instructors a baseline to measure our shooting performance. TigerSwan teaches that every round should have a purpose, and that we need to measure our practice. “We are all results oriented people,” Brian said. After each string, we ran a self-critique. How was my stance? My grip? Was I looking at the sights, or was I looking at the target? If you did it right, you would see scores going steadily up. By mid-day, I was putting 40-50% of my hits in the 10 ring. Did I mention that was at 25 yards?
The instructors broke down each part of handgun shooting: the stance, the grip, sight alignment, trigger squeeze and presentation. For each piece, we ran a slow fire string, concentrating on perfecting that one piece that we working on, while getting coaching and feedback from the instructors. By the afternoon, we had graduated to IPSC silhouettes, and moved in to 10 yards. After shooting at 25 yards, moving in to 10 yards was pretty easy. I had a few dropped shots, but making “A” zone hits seems really easy when you have been shooting at the 25.
Each drill is designed to test one skill, one part of the process. And each drill that we ran, Brain demonstrated first. This proved two things to us. First, the techniques worked. Second, even world class shooters have off days. On one or two drills, Brian’s shooting was not up to his standards. “Let’s try that again,” he would say, he would do it again until he got it right. It’s a little thing, but it got me thinking about making small improvements and continuously improving my own shooting.
“Simplicity in the basics” is how TigerSwan describes their training. As Brain put it, “There isn’t any such thing as advanced shooting. There is just doing each piece exactly right, and doing it that way every time.” And that is precisely what they teach at TigerSwan: how to do it perfectly, every time. The level of training that you receive for money spent is simply ridiculous. I can’t recommend them highly enough.
My TigerSwan updates will be over a few days…I dreamed about the class last night and that’s a pretty good indication to me that my brain is still percolating.
I got to meet some great folks. Sean has been promoted from “Gunnies” to “Gunnies I’ve met” in the olde blogroll. And I’ve gotten to add John R. from f No Lawyers, Only Guns and Money, Larry from Last Refuge of a Scoundrel, Rich from Knitebane Manor, and Paul from Arms are the Mark of a Free Man to that elite group.
I’ve had one key takeaway from each shooting class that I have taken. Gunsite 250 taught me that I was able to be competent with my defensive gun. Gunsite 350 taught me that tactics were just as important as the shooting. TigerSwan taught me that it is impossible to miss if you do things right. Likewise, it is impossible to hit if you do things wrong.
I’m working on a full review, but in one sentence it would be: “Get your ass to TigerSwan!” In some ways, I learned more in one day at TigerSwan than I did in a week at Gunsite. I’ll definitely be back.
Thanks to Sean for setting this up, thanks for Brian and Paul for world-class instruction, and thanks to my fellow students for a great day of shooting!
Just got black from the blogger shoot. What a blast! Met some great people, learned a ton, and had a great time. I’ll have a full report once my everything stops hurting.
O-dark-30. Leaving for TigerSwan class. Must drink coffee.
More when my brain stops hurting.