To fully understand my review and take on Jason Falla’s 2-Day Basic Pistol Course, it might be best to give you a touch of my shooting background. Like many Alaskans, I’ve ‘been shooting all my life’ starting with Dad and my first .22 and throughout my youth every hunting season. Only in the past five to six years have I been intrigued with semi-auto center fire pistol shooting. I’m lucky enough to have a friend who lets me shoot at his house locally so I was able to casually practice a few drills/techniques at the range for a while before taking the class. I would say that during slow-fire practice, my accuracy was pretty good along with no stress malfunction clearances and gun-handling skills. In summary, I had limited experience but knew the class was going to shed some light on my weaknesses…whatever they were.
Jason made his way to the Frigid North for our October 08-09 class. Right away, we started with what I felt was a great orientation/safety briefing. He made sure he knew which type of firearm everyone was using and what he expected the condition of each pistol to be in during the class (double actions decocked and safety off, 1911s safety on, etc.) when holstered.
Having been exposed to combat all over the world, he naturally drew on those experiences and made them relate to the ‘real world’ for us civilians and kept the ‘breaching walls and clearing houses with a 30 man team’ to Q&A sessions between strings of fire. One aspect of what Jason teaches is how to achieve speed, and that is done trough efficiency and ergonomics. Using the natural biomechanics of your body, he breaks it down into palm neutral, palm down, and palm up. The palm neutral state would be your shooting/high ready stance (which carries over to shooting a carbine/shotgun as well) while the palm up state being for magazine swaps/reloading and palm down for getting your weapon back ready to fight. Once on the range, we ran through a quick introduction and it was a conglomeration of folks who had taken prior training to folks who had been in the military to folks who leaned over during the orientation and said “What’s a 1911?” Once the formalities were out of the way, Jason covered recoil management and accuracy. There are two pieces to the recoil management puzzle being both grip and stance. The stance that was taught was to keep your hips square to the target but to stagger your feet, foot on your strong side to the rear, your weak side slightly forward. This allows you to stay in an isosceles shooting position but provides you with forward and rearward stability and ease of movement.
Once on the range, we ran through a quick introduction and it was a conglomeration of folks who had taken prior training to folks who had been in the military to folks who leaned over during the orientation and said “What’s a 1911?” Once the formalities were out of the way, Jason covered recoil management and accuracy. There are two pieces to the recoil management puzzle being both grip and stance. The stance that was taught was to keep your hips square to the target but to stagger your feet, foot on your strong side to the rear, your weak side slightly forward. This allows you to stay in an isosceles shooting position but provides you with forward and rearward stability and ease of movement.
With your grip, you want to get a firm grip on your pistol with your strong hand and ‘crush the bones’ of your strong hand over the top with your weak hand. Accuracy was also covered with two fundamentals being both sight alignment and trigger control. With your sight picture, ‘equal height, equal light’ was the mantra and the trigger press was to first ‘prep the trigger’ by taking out the ‘combat slack’ and then to add weight smoothly until the gun fired, following through to reset, and prepping the trigger again for a second shot. It was stressed to us that you can save time by speeding up where you can, but you still need to slow down when you need to. For example, wasting time on the draw and being slow presenting the gun only eats up time that could be better served establishing a good sight picture and performing a smooth trigger press.
After everyone did a fair amount of practice on drawing, presenting, and re-holstering, it was time to shoot. We did a few slow-fire drills to begin to get used to putting the fundamentals together and getting used to prepping for another shot even if you didn’t need to take it. Once the ‘threat’ was taken out of the picture, a scan and assess followed by returning to high ready for a systems check was the next order of business. All too often he sees the scan and assess happening while slides are locked to the rear among other various malfunctions. This is the reason he incorporated the systems check, which is truly just a quick scan of your slide/barrel assembly at high ready to make sure your gun is in good working order after a string of fire.
Next we reviewed combat and tactical reloading. Performing a combat reload was as simple as identifying your gun ran dry, the slide locked back, and you need a new magazine. You now begin the reloading process. From your shooting stance, come back to high ready and go palm-up. KEEP THE GUN HIGH IN YOUR VISION!! This keeps your gun in the same sight alignment as your enemy and keeps you from working your gun down toward the waist with your head down. While going palm up, you should be pressing the magazine release with your strong hand, letting the empty magazine fall to the ground, while your weak hand is going for a fresh magazine from your carrier. Your magazines are always carried with your rounds facing forward which enables you to get a firm grasp on your magazine, pull it from the carrier, and index your finger on the tip of the first loaded round. Your body knows where your hands are at all times and by putting the tip of your support hand finger indexed on the first round loaded in your magazine and rushing it toward your strong hand which is gripped on the magazine well of your gun, it helps to naturally guide the fresh magazine where it needs to go. Once the magazine is part way into the gun, your eyes can break focus from the magazine while you fully seat the magazine with a quick strike of your palm. For right handed shooters, you now have 3 choices for sending the slide home. Strong hand thumb, weak hand thumb, and the slingshot method. Jason prefers them in that order but also stresses that you need to know all methods of getting your slide back in battery as your thumbs are often the most damaged fingers and in a combat situation, you may need to know other techniques than just strong hand thumb. For lefties, your weak hand middle finger can easily access the release and is very effective. A tactical reload consists of swapping a partially filled magazine for a full magazine (only when time and opportunity present itself) by brining the gun to high ready, grabbing a fresh magazine from your carrier, claw-gripping the fresh magazine between your index and middle fingers using the same indexing technique as the combat reload, but sliding your finger down the side for the ‘claw grip’. Now your weak hand thumb and index finger are freed up to grab the partially filled magazine from the gun and insert the fresh magazine followed by a good palm strike. Retain the partially filled magazine by reinserting it into your carrier. This is all done with just one trip from your belt, to your gun, and back. Your gun is now ready to fight again and after a quickly reestablishing your grip and presenting the weapon, you are back to the fundamentals. By practicing your drills the way you are taught and not taking shortcuts you begin to build the neural pathways that make you react to the situation and not your equipment. Taking shortcuts only build range scars that take time away from furthering your training and making you re-learn the basics. Jason is also very knowledgeable when it comes to the human body and his medical knowledge. He explained why you would shoot in the high thorax, the low pelvic region, the head and what you would be breaking down by placing shots in these areas.
We then took an opportunity to practice really good sight alignment and trigger control by shooting 5 round strings at 5, 10, 15, 20, and 25 yards. I did fairly well and didn’t drop any outside of the scoring zone. We moved back in and started changing the speed of things up a bit by doing multiple round drills with two slow to the body, one quick one to the head, vice versa, and so on. Jason has been instructing for quite some time and it shows. He was very smooth with presenting his thoughts and even moved into and out of a few knife fighting and hand to hand combat techniques throughout the class and they fit well with the subject at hand.