Ivy O'hern - Third Scholarship Recipient - Personal Account
Wednesday, August 12 2009 @ 09:10 PM -06
Contributed by: admin
- Day 1 - Introduction lecture, basic shooting drills
- Day 2 - Ballistics lecture, malfunction drills
- Day 3 - Mental conditioning lecture, pivots and turns, Tactics lecture
- Day 4 - walk through of the Donga and the Fun House, Low light class
- Day 5 - final graded “school drills,” final graded Donga and Fun House, man-to-man shoot off competitions, GRADUATION!
Among the things we were taught throughout the week were The Modern Technique of the Pistol which entails the 5 count draw, the Weaver stance, the flash sight picture, and the use of a heavy duty, self loading pistol -M1911-A1. This was set into place by Colonel Jeff Cooper and taught at the original American Pistol Institute. We also learned different shooting techniques, and we practiced several different drills. Some of these techniques included controlled pairs (2 shots, 2 sight pictures, as quick as possible) and hammers (2 shots, 1 sight picture, as fast as the trigger can be pulled) as opposed to NSRs (non standard response - shoot until the threat goes away, no real pattern).
The Color Code system of awareness was also explained to us during the Mindset lecture. Different colors are used to describe a person’s mental conditioning and preparation to respond to their surrounding environment. These colors are our mental triggers that either restrain or compel us into action. The colors are as follows:
-white - unable to react to threats in the environment, not paying attention
-yellow - aware of one’s surroundings
-orange - alert to a specific potential threat
-red - ready and prepared to fight
Two drills that I have continued to practice are Dozier drills and El Presidentes. Colonel Cooper created both of these drill based on real world events that he recognized and thought them necessary to practice. He modified these happenings into exercises to test the abilities of a shooter as well as to help enhance their performance. A Dozier drill is simply 5 pepper poppers knocked down as quickly as possible from low ready. El Presidentes are a little more involved. Beginning with our back to the targets, we would turn, fire two shots on each of three separate targets, speed load, and fire two additional shots on the same three targets. These were scored with a par time of 10 seconds and a maximum score of 60 points. We also practiced the standard malfunction clearance drill - tap, rack, and roll to clear double feeds and stovepipe malfunctions.
In the 250 class, we were introduced to two shooting simulators: the Donga and the Gunsite Fun House. The Donga is an open area scenario where various pepper poppers are spaced throughout the walk. The Fun House is a closed area set up similar to a house complete with furniture, doors, mirrors, etc. Both of these simulators teach shooters how to search buildings when approaching an unknown, sticky situation.
Our night shoot on day 4 shed a different light on everything we had learned. We were taught the Harries flashlight technique as a method of shooting in poor light conditions. The Harries technique incorporates the use of a hand-held flashlight into the Weaver stance. I used a SureFire 6P, and it worked beautifully.
At graduation, all the students were presented with a certificate of completion with our final grade on it. Grades were based on our performance in the two simulators, our numerical score in our final set of school drills, and our overall performance throughout the week. There are four grade levels: Completion, Marksman, Marksman 1, and Expert. Expert rankings are rather difficult to achieve, and my unusual class had three Expert graduates. I however am incredibly proud to be a Marksman 1.
I’m not sure if all of the classes are as aggressive as mine, but the special group of people I was with thrived on friendly competition. The man-to-man shoot offs throughout the course made the week rather interesting. The game was simple - with a single shot, hit the steel target before your opponent. These little races soon turned into heated rivalries. On day 5, after all grading was finished, we had another, different shoot off. We had to hit two steel plates, speed load, then knock down half of a split pepper popper. No matter what the outcome was, we all enjoyed ourselves greatly in these matches. After all, we were fighting for bragging rights!
The difference in my range performance on day 1 and day 5 is incredible. I have developed immensely as a shooter over the course of 5 short days. I am familiar with the proper way to handle a firearm, I notice my mistakes each time a make one, and I know how to correct these mistakes. I have all the tools I need, and I will continue to improve each time a draw my gun from my side.
I have also gained so much mental confidence. At home, I would always shoot with the same group of family and friends. They all already knew my style and my capabilities. But at Gunsite, I was thrown into a different group of shooters, many of which had already had a great amount of shooting instruction. Some were simply natural shooters, while others were still learning just like me. I went into the class only wanting to survive without embarrassing myself too badly. I quickly realized that I actually could keep up the pace with these guys and maybe even give them a run for their money. That was more than enough of a confidence boost to accelerate my performance throughout the week.
On day 5, with friends and family there to watch me shoot, I stumbled … a bunch. But the instructors saw my frustration and assured me that everything was in my head and that I was indeed a better shooter than my numbers let on. That reassurance is one of the most important things that I took away from Gunsite, and it will always be in the back of my mind, ready to remind me of past mistakes and there to correct future ones.
The class I attended was actually not supposed to teach a person to shoot; it’s real purpose is to teach a student to fight. As a young woman who will soon be moving to a new and much larger city, I will need to be able to protect myself at all times. I have the skills and the mental preparation to handle any unfortunate situations, but that’s still not enough. This is a new lifestyle that I am adjusting to. RM Tuttle told us of a little exercise to test mental awareness. Every time I stop at a red light, I look at the cars to my right and left and try to remember as much as I can about the vehicle and its passengers, trying to notice anything that might cause alarm. It is almost becoming second nature now, and I really like my constant state of “yellow.”
I gained so much knowledge, experience, and assurance in my abilities within these five short days. I now know, without a doubt, that if I am ever in the unfortunate position where I must defend myself, I am mentally and physically prepared to do so. These skills I will carry with me always. The Jeff Cooper Legacy Foundation has given me a special gift. I am now a proud member of the Gunsite family. And as a family tradition, I will ensure that Colonel Cooper’s memory and his teachings will be carried on for many, many years to come. I extend my sincere gratitude to the Cooper family and the Jeff Cooper Legacy Foundation for this great honor - my life has been forever changed.