This weekend I attended the Red Dot Combat Pistol School in Las Vegas, Nevada taught by Roger Phillips. Suarez International actually had three of these classes going on simultaneously this weekend. In addition to the one in Vegas we also had one in Winchester, Virginia taught by Jack Rumbaugh and one in Liberty Hill, Texas with John Chambers.
I brought my TSD Glock 17, with a Trijicon RMR mounted on a OEM Glock slide that we had milled. I also brought along an iron sighted Glock 17. The RMRed Glock rode in a BladeTech Archangel II holster, while I carried the standard G17 in a left-handed Dale Fricke Archangel.
All of the students in the class brought Glocks, including three G19s, one G17, a G35, and a Glock 17L. All of these had red dot sights, of course. All but one were TSD guns (about a 50/50 mix between OEM slides that we’d milled and TSD slides) with RMRs. One student brought a gun with a Burris FastFire in a dovetail mount that replaced the rear sight. I noticed that he tended to spend some time hunting for the dot, since unlike the TSD guns he didn’t have any iron sights to guide him to the dot.
The students themselves ran the gamut, from very little formal handgun training to a couple of Roger’s regular students.
We started out with the usual administrative stuff: signing waivers, promising on video not to sue, etc. Roger gave a brief overview of what we’d be doing in the class, then launched into his usual very thorough safety briefing. With the admin out of the way we headed downrange to the targets to have everyone shoot an initial group. The walk was rather long since Roger had reserved a 100 yard range (and tomorrow we’d be using every bit of it).
Roger had the students shoot the one-hole drill to establish an initial baseline for everybody’s skill level. This drill is simply shooting a five round slow-fire group from about five yards. As the name implies, the goal is to put all the rounds into a single hole. From the group it was clear that we had some folks in the class who were already very good sighted fire shooters. We also had some who could stand some improvement (but that is, after all, what everyone was here for).
With the initial baseline established, Roger went through the fundamentals of pistol marksmanship. This sort of extensive lecture on the fundamentals is something we usually do in our basic classes, not so much in a more advanced class like this. However, the goal of this class is to teach students how to take advantage of the full capabilities of a red dot pistol, including maximizing its long range potential. If you want to shoot a red dot pistol at 100 yards and beyond your fundamentals have to be absolutely perfect.
Roger went through each of the fundamentals in detail, starting with stance and grip. Red dot sights tremendously simplify sight alignment and sight picture, but we still have to execute the perfect trigger press and avoid recoil anticipation. Finish everything up with a good follow through and proper trigger reset.
We returned to the range and practiced the fundamentals dry, particularly concentrating on the trigger press. In order to give students a chance to practice their follow through and trigger reset, Roger had them pair up with one student doing their dry practice while the other worked the slide after each shot. After plenty of dry practice, Roger had the students shoot another one-hole drill to check on everyone’s progress.
We had a couple of students with recoil anticipation issues, so Roger set up a quick ball and dummy drill. Rather than dig out the dummy rounds, he just had the students hand him their gun and turn and face away while he messed with it. When he handed it back, they didn’t know if there was a round in the chamber or not. Sure enough, several folks displayed the classic muzzle dip of recoil anticipation.
After a short break, Roger went through the drawstroke. We did a couple of draw and shoot drills, concentrating on combining the draw with a very accurate shot. Next up were some multiple shot drills, starting with controlled pairs. These are not ‘double taps’ ‘hammers’ or ‘two round bursts’, they are two individually aimed shots, with a sight picture and follow through for each shot. Once the students had the pairs down, Roger had everyone draw and shoot a string of 5 shots in the same manner.
Over lunch, I showed off my FN FS2000. A few of the students shot it and Roger walked downrange and did some CQB drills with it. The bullpup’s short OAL and balance really open up some options when it comes to gunhandling. It really complements the SI approach to CQB perfectly.
After lunch we picked up with some point shooting. While the selling point of the red dot is it’s ability to take long range or very precise shots, we need to be able to cover the entire spectrum of possibilities. Up close, this means being able to point shoot. Having the RMR sitting on top of the slide does change some things as far as point shooting is concerned, but the basic principles remain the same.
Roger went through several different reference points you can use when point shooting an RMRed pistol. The first was shooting through the ‘saddle’ at the top of the RMR. This is analogous to looking over the top of the slide when shooting a non-RMRed gun. To aid in alignment, you can center the front sight in the window of the RMR.
After everyone shot from the saddle, Roger described using the upper corner of the RMR as a visual reference. Like shooting off the corner of the slide using a non-RMRed pistol, this works very well when going one-handed in the ‘half homie’.
Roger really preaches ‘parallel to the ground’ when teaching point shooting. It works well as an introductory level point shooting technique (with angling the gun up or down to get the desired elevation on the target as a more advanced application). Problem is, this doesn’t really work when you’re a foot or more taller than the target (not an issue that Roger usually encounters). One of the students in the class was about my height, so he encountered this issue and ended up putting some of his shots over the target. I showed him how to angle his arm downward to direct fire into the target’s center of mass.
While the corner of the RMR is the most obvious feature to use when you’ve got the gun rolled over into the half-homie, it’s only a single point, rather than a linear feature, so there are limits to how much visual assistance this gives you in pointing the gun. You can also use the corner of the slide (just as we do with a non-RMRed pistol. The RMR obstructs this a bit, but the technique is still usable, particularly with longer barreled pistols.
You can also use our standard point shooting technique of shooting over the top of the slide with an RMRed Glock. The trick is that you don’t want to be looking through the window of the RMR, since the lens of the RMR will distort your perspective a bit if you look through it at an angle. Instead, we look over the top of the RMR at the front of the slide and aim that big flat aircraft carrier at the target. This means we have to hold the gun a bit lower, about chin level rather than nose level.
Finally, Roger went through the TV Screen of Death technique. This is basically metal on meat for an RMRed Glock. You look through the RMR, but instead of looking for the dot, if the target fills the window, you’re good to go.
It may seem odd to dedicate this much time to point shooting in a class dedicated to the red dot, but the goal here is to show how an RMRed Glock can handle the full spectrum of possible threats. The dot is a great tool, but it’s not appropriate in every circumstance.
Moving back to some precision shooting with the dot, Roger lined up everyone at ten yards and had them shoot some headshots. Once everyone had done four shots, we stepped back about two yards and did it again. We moved all the way back to 20 yards this way. A 20 yard headshot is a pretty impressive feat, but most of the students were able to keep their shots in the target’s head. All the practice they’d been doing since this morning was really paying off.
We began on Sunday with some movement drills. Suarez International is known for our dynamic movement, exploding off the X, etc. What Roger was teaching this morning was controlled movement. The main difference is that in dynamic movement you’re moving too fast to use the sights effectively. This requires you to point shoot, which in turn limits the range at which you can use the technique to around 7–10 yards. Controlled movement is slower and places more emphasis on a solid shooting platform, allowing you to use your sights (or red dot in this case). It tilts the balance of ‘to hit or not to get hit’ much more towards hitting the adversary. While this is not a technique we emphasize in most of our classes, there is a place for it.
Roger talked about the principles of controlled movement and demonstrated the ‘Groucho’: moving while crouched down, knees bent, short steps, all intended to minimize disruption to the shooting platform. We did some dry drills involving moving downrange from 30 yards to 10 yards, trying to keep the dot on target. The red dot system is actually very well suited to this kind of dry practice, since the dot instantly lets you know how much disruption your movement is causing to your shooting platform.
Going live, we did some side to side movement, going across the range while delivering accurate fire on your target from about 10 yards. Going to the right, this can be done two-handed, going to the left, in order to to totally screw up your movement platform, it’s much easier to just go one-handed. It can actually be easier to keep the gun steady while moving when going one-handed, since the gun is only receiving movement related shocks from one arm rather than two.
We moved on to some forward movement, closing with the target on a slightly oblique angle. This is a bit easier than side to side since you don’t have to turn your shooting platform so far from your direction of movement. We followed this up with a much more difficult movement to the rear obliques. Roger emphasized that you need to learn to control your cadence. As you get closer to the target you can (and should) speed up your rate of fire as the shots get easier.
Next we moved up closer to the targets and kicked up the speed a notch. At these distances and this speed, we’re into the realm of dynamic movement rather than the controlled movement we’d been doing earlier. We worked some dynamic movement drills, practicing getting off the X to the 3 and 9 o’clock directions.
After that it was back to precision shooting. After a warm up with the one-hole drill, Roger started extending the range. Beginning at 20 yards, we moved back in 10 yard increments, eventually all the way to 100.
At 20 and 30 yards everyone shot from offhand. Moving back to 40, Roger started demonstrating a series of supported shooting positions. At 40 he demonstrated the kneeling position. This provides a bit more support and the added steadiness makes the long shots easier.
At this point Roger also introduced the Suarez International after-action drill. This basically involves making sure the current fight is over, getting ready for the next one, and checking to see if you need to administer any treatment for a gunshot wound.
As we moved back further, Roger showed the rollover prone position. This is a great position as far as steadiness and reducing your profile to incoming fire. The disadvantage is that it can only be used on a very flat surface. Vegetation or even very small micro-terrain variations can block visibility to your target.
Even further out, Roger went through the tactical Creedmoor position. This position may look funky, but it provides a lot of stability and a bit more elevation than rollover prone.
Around this time the wind kicked up. I took a couple of offhand shots from some of the longer ranges and found that the gusts of wind were blowing me off target. I never expected wind to be this much of a factor in pistol shooting.
We got back out to 100 and everyone managed to get hits on the steel at each distance.
The range had a small ramada at around 110 yards to protect the shooting benches. Roger demonstrated some techniques for shooting with external support, including using your buddy as a backrest, and using a stool for support. I showed a method for using a vertical support, like the corner of a wall (or in this case the columns supporting the ramada) to help steady your shot. By this time the wind had really kicked up and the gusts were making the ramada vibrate, making it a less than perfect shooting support.
For our penultimate drill, Roger had the students shoot the Columbian Special Forces drill with pistols. This is usually something we do with rifles, but using the skills developed in this class, you can do it with a pistol as well. You start at 100 yard, drop into rollover prone and fire five shots. Move up to 75 yards and assume the tactical Creedmoor position and fire another five shots. Moving up to 50, it’s five shots from kneeling. At 25, you switch from the steel target to a paper target and fire five shots from standing, then reload and move up to the target shooting on the move.
After everyone had a chance to shoot the Columbian SF drill, we shifted gears back to one more bit of running and gunning. We did a set of GOTX drills to the 3 and 9 o’clock directions up at close range, moving dynamically and point shooting. Combined with the Columbian SF drill this really showcases the TSD Glock’s capability across the full range of circumstances.
This was an excellent class. It really teaches you how to use your red dot pistol over the full spectrum of possible engagements, from long range precision shots to close range bust off the X situations. It draws from many different SI classes and melds them into a coherent whole focused on the red dot pistol. If you have a TSD red dot pistol, this is the class you really need to maximize you capability with the gun.
We had a good group of students for this class. Everyone was squared away and came ready to learn. I'm quite sure that all the students left considerably more dangerous than when they arrived.
Roger Phillips is known primarily as 'the point shooting guy' but he has an excellent set of sighted fire skills and a deep understanding of how to convey these skills to students. Despite being a different curriculum that I usually see him teach he did an excellent job. I would not hesitate to recommend any of his classes, whether focused on point shooting or sighted fire.
The TSD Red Dot pistols are truly state of the art in combat handguns and the TSD Red Dot Combat Pistol School is state of the art in combat handgun training.