Gunsite vs. TigerSwan: Part 1
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.