Handgun enthusiasts joined the leadership of the Buckeye Firearms Association (BFA) for a fun and educational range day at Tactical Defense Institute (TDI) outside West Union, Ohio. The Range Safety Officers and instructors from Tactical Defense Institute and the Izaak Walton Tallawanda Chapter volunteered their time. John Brenner, who operates TDI, donated the use of the facility for the day. He explained the motivation, “We are very fortunate for the support we get from the shooting community. I make my living from them. I don’t want to take from that community without giving something back. This is one way to give back to the BFA organization. They do so much for all of us.”
Randy Bueche from the Izaak Walton Tallawanda Chapter laid out the shooting scenarios. They incorporated some challenges that the concealed handgun license (CHL) holder might experience in an armed encounter whether at home or on the street. Scenarios included properly using available cover such as walls inside a home environment and shooting while moving. The force-on-force house, utilizing airsoft training pistols, presented a home invasion situation. The steel plate rack, where the shooters can practice at varying distances, is always a favorite. The opportunity to shoot the Ohio police officer qualifying course on the range was popular. It is enlightening to see what law enforcement officers must do for basic qualification. All the participants who tried the qualifying stage were able to pass.
Participants enjoyed the day with everyone having a favorite stage. Many thought the force-on-force home invasion was the best. A couple of the newer CHL holders commented that it also made them a little nervous. One newer concealed handgun license holder noted that the thought of a home invasion with her children in the house is very scary. She was relating the possibility that the lives of her family, especially her children, might really depend on how she handles that situation. More experienced shooters seemed to enjoy the stages that required moving, use of cover and perhaps magazine changes while on the move. Newer shooters, or some like myself who hadn’t participated in training exercises recently, had basic skills reinforced at the target range or on the steel plate racks.
I took advantage of the day to reinforce the basics. While I’ve been shooting for a number of years, I had let my handgun training take a backseat to other disciplines. Recent trips to the range showed that my skills were slipping. The problem was I didn’t have a clue as to how to correct the problem. I’m at that age where I recognize that “if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it”. So I headed to the plate rack and asked TDI Instructor Clay Smith to get me back on track. He took me back to the basics of my stance and especially my grip. With a few minor corrections I was soon much smoother in my gun handling and sight alignment. This resulted in consistently knocking down the steel plates. Smith’s approach to coaching, like all the TDI instructors, never made me feel inadequate but simply focused on improving my skills.
Smith commented, “You have to have the basic skills as a foundation. The basics to get someone onto the steel plates consistently is to square your hips and shoulders to the target or the threat. The stance should be a forward aggressive and leaning into your gun. The proper grip placement is to get the support hand into place where it is really helping you control the recoil of the gun.” These basics showed that I was not getting the solid grip with the support hand. He continued, “The support hand is critical and where you get most of the recoil control. If you over grip the gun with the firing hand you will drive shots low. The support hand exerts pressure on the handgun without changing the point of aim. The wrists should be locked forward with the support hand thumb pointing down the side of the gun.”
I continued my discussion with Smith about how we get more CHL holders to recognize the need for continued practice and training. My concern is that many CHL holders get the initial training and may go years without additional training. As I learned skills can slip quickly. Smith noted, “It’s tough to get folks out to the range for training. You don’t know what you’ve lost until you see it. You may have been shooting all your life without really understanding some fine points. You simply may not know or have forgotten the right way. Perhaps they don’t know where to go or what type of training is available. Events like the Buckeye Firearms Association Blast help bring that point home. Instructors can get a few minutes to focus on a couple of quality pointers. It gives them a taste of what is available.”
Continuing the discussion Brenner added, “I’m not sure how to motivate the concealed handgun license holder to train more. I always tell law enforcement officers you have a responsibility to yourself, the people you work with, the community you work for and to their families to be good at what they do. If you’re not good at what you do, then you are not as likely to win as the person who spends some time gaining some skills. It gives you a tremendous amount of confidence when you are better at what you do. Confidence is a big thing that allows you to get through a lot of situations without using force or a firearm.”
The event was certainly beneficial for my shooting skills. Comments from the attendees certainly reflect that they did indeed have a “Blast”. Clint Lake, BFA Training Coordinator summed up the day, “This is the one day that will leave you hoping the next 364 days goes fast so you can return! It will grow in you a hunger to train!”
For more information on Buckeye Firearms Association go to www.buckeyefirearms.org. Information on the Tactical Defense Institute training courses can be found a tdiohio.com.
Larry S. Moore is a local resident and an outdoor columnist.