I had the pleasure of attending the Green Ops Defensive Pistol Clinic this past Sunday. I was looking through my blog to refresh my memory about it, and it turns out that it has been a full year since the last time I took this clinic. This was kind of a surprise! I go to a lot of these clinics, but it seems I’ve branched out quite a bit. It did make me excited to see how it has evolved since then, and I was not disappointed!
Read on for the AAR!
(Full disclosure: I got a small class discount for AARs I previously wrote. I didn’t ask for it, and I’d still be taking their classes without it. The amount of money in question is trivial to my situation, and thus had trivial impact on this AAR – or so I hope. I’m also an admin on their alumni group, mostly because I whined at them to start it in the first place.)
Class Title: Green Ops Defensive Pistol Clinic I
Class Description: From the website: This clinic covers the defensive use of a full-sized to compact-sized pistol. You will improve your pistol handling skills with a strong emphasis on the fundamentals. This clinic covers the defensive use of a full sized to compact sized pistol. Students will improve their pistol handling skills with a strong emphasis on the fundamentals. Students will learn self-diagnostic skills to continue development of their own personal performance.
Instructors: The instructors were Fred Moore, Jo’shua Shaw, and Luke Brooks. Fred has some military background, and is a current LEO. Jo’shua and Luke are competition shooters. You can see more about their bios on the Green Ops website.
Location/Date: The class was held at the NRA HQ range in Fairfax, VA on December 8, 2019 from 6 PM to 10:30 PM. The NRA HQ range is clean, well-lit, and can even sell you ammo if you run dry. It sure beat shooting out in the cold of winter and using porta-potties.
Equipment Details: I went simplistic this time on my rig – just my RHT Polymer80 Competition Holster and a BladeTech double mag pouch hanging off my Graith belt. I suppose one interesting change was wearing a pair of 5.11 TacLite Pro pants. These are somewhat non-optimal with velcro belts due to the over-sized belt loops, BUT that pistol mag pouch on the front left leg was extremely handy throughout class as a place to keep a fourth 21rd Glock pmag. The phone pocket on the front right leg also made accessing my phone for pictures a breeze.
The gun was my Polymer80 PF940C build topped with RMR and accessorized with a Streamlight TLR-1, but with the compensator and threaded barrel replaced by a boring cheapo Glock 19 barrel. At some point near the middle of the class, my RMR had some zero shift to the left, which was a new one for me – it may be heading back to Trijicon for some repairs. My shooting was a bit subpart as a result, but once I figured out what was going on, I was able to mostly compensate. Ammo was my hot 124gr handloads; I’d estimate we used a couple hundred rounds, maybe slightly more.
Preparation Drills: Some regular dry-fire. I felt like it showed – I had a relatively fast draw and reloads throughout the class.
Author’s Previous Experience: Civilian with no military or LEO background. Have shot some competition, but no accomplishments worth bragging about. Training junkie since April 2018, and have averaged a class a month since then. I am OK with a carbine, pretty good with a pistol, and just average with a shotgun.
Class Demographics: There were about a dozen people in the class. Group was racially diverse, including one woman. Skill levels were also rather diverse; I saw a couple guys who were about as good as me, a couple who didn’t necessarily have the best gun handling skills, and a bunch in between. There is an expectation that you will walk in knowing how to safely draw from a holster, but that’s about it.
There were three no shows. I don’t even get how you just skip classes like that, but it seems rather uncouth to take a paying spot and then not use it. The Green Ops cancellations and refunds policy is pretty generous, but I know I’m pretty damn careful to not sign up for classes I am not 100% sure I can take.
There were a lot of DA/SA guns this time around. Also a lot of red dots. (I need to break out my GLS holsters these days and run the class with one of my DA/SA guns just for the educational aspect.) I watched a couple students next to me have serious problems with their DA/SA guns in terms of magazine reliability and just working them. Always check your gear before class!
TD1 (evening): As with all Green Ops clinics, the first hour was classroom time. One interesting thing I noticed this time was that there was a clearly-defined agenda laid out on the chalk board. That was smart, and provided the students with 1) an idea of what to expect and 2) prevented any important topics from being missed.
First up were the usual instructor introductions and safety/medical brief. This was covered efficiently, and thoroughly.
Second was the use of force brief, delivered very competently by Fred. I’ve heard it more than half a dozen times by now. Preclusion, opportunity, last resort, etc. I can sum it as “shooting people is a legal and emotional downer, so don’t do it unless you’re really in danger and out of options”. I think it would be interesting if they ran a good Active Self Protection channel video and spent a couple minutes dissecting what a defensive shooting in the real world looked like. There was some talk about getting in a lawyer to talk through some parts of it, which sounded like a smart idea to me.
This particular brief had some interesting discussion about the protocol of calling 911 after a defensive pistol shooting, and the need for you (as defender) to do it as soon as possible to get your story out there first so the other guy can’t call them and (wrongly) sic the cops on you.
Following the brief, Jo’shua (who is an M-class USPSA shooter almost at GM) talked about how to get higher performance, and the five pillars:
I always list them out in these AARs because I want to stress how much I agree with them. It is immediately apparent to me whenever I’ve skimped on live-fire, dry-fire, or competition. Pistol skills degrade quickly when not honed to a fine edge. Jo’shua did a great job of showing how dry-fire works, and I think opened some eyes as to what you needed to do to genuinely become excellent.
Also, he made one comment about the draw that I’ve just been mulling over ever since. It was something along the lines of: “once your pistol is up and out of the holster, you just drop your elbow”. What is about to follow is perhaps the dumbest thing I’ve ever written on this blog, but I have never considered thinking about my draw like that. I always think in terms of where my gun is moving during the draw, not where my elbow is moving. But he’s right, and I’m going to be spending some dry-fire time playing with that concept. When someone with some skill speaks, pay some attention.
After the classroom session, there was a brief ammo check at the front desk for bimetal jacket rounds (cue my “here’s my green tip ammo!” joke) and everyone went out to the range.
First up were some dry-fire draws. This is a good exercise for diagnosing gross issues with the draw, and to see if there are people who are having trouble safely drawing BEFORE putting ammo in their gun. I remember being slightly skeptical of this in the past, but a year of open enrollment classes later, I now feel that checking to make sure someone next to me isn’t going to accidentally shoot me or themselves is greatly appreciated.
A partial list of drills we did:
- Draw and shoot three
- Low ready, strong hand two, reload, weak hand two
- Failure drill (“two to the body, one to the head”)
I know that some instructors hate it when you post drill lists. I have no idea why. The drills are not the secret sauce. Any idiot can tell you to draw from your holster and shoot an A-zone a few times, or run Dot Torture, or whatever. It’s the feedback that you receive and the quality of instruction that makes a class good or bad. Green Ops always delivers on both, which is why I keep going back.
As you can see from the drill list, the class is very centered around pistol fundamentals. I was mostly pleased with my performance, especially once I figured out to compensate for my zero shift. I was much, much better on head shots than I had been previously, and the trick I learned to shooting one-handed in Jedi’s class – plus some dry-fire – made me relatively strong on the one-handed drills.
I also received some very useful feedback on my reloads (I’m a shaker, which is inefficient), and on my tap-rack-bang (I move my support hand way too far from the gun). To me, these lower-level clinics are structured practice with some coaching, which is a thing I need at this point in my shooting career. I made a consistent effort to always move as fast as I could while still getting the hits.
The shot timer started getting use about midway through the range time. Perhaps I’ve become too much of a gamer, but I like timers because of their lack of ambiguity for starting a drill. You hear that beep, your hands start moving.
The final hour or so of the class was a beta test run of the Green Ops qual, with individuals timed. Since it’s still in formulation, I will refrain from going into too much detail, except that it was at 10 yards and was about 15 rounds. Much like the MSP Black Belt standards, none of the shooting is impossible for a good pistol shooter (A-zone head box hits being the toughest part), but the par times (still TBD) keep it challenging. I made a couple of dumb Charlies and was a bit on the slow side, but nailed every single head shot. (If I were doing this for real, I’d be using my gamer rig, for sure.) The head shots are probably enough to keep it tricky to get that patch. I’d probably recommend switching to a USPSA/IDPA target with well-defined outlines and doing some sort of total time score (with penalties for C shots, ala IDPA) to allow for a little more decision making on whether to go fast or slow.
Class Debrief: People gunned up for carry at the line, and then we headed to the back for certificates, “what did you learn?”, and a class photo.
After Class: Ending around 10:30PM on a Sunday night means most people are just sleepily driving home in preparation for work the next day. You do get an email with the drill list and some other useful information after class, which is appreciated (especially if you’re writing an AAR like me!).
Conclusions: Comparing it to my previous AAR, this class has evolved substantially from the last time I took it, and I think for the better. The complexity ramped up more smoothly, but some of the later drills seemed more challenging. Being forced to attempt those difficult head shots and shoot one-handed (with reloads!) at 10yds was a real wake-up moment for many of the students.
The instructors did a great job working in-depth with the students who needed it, and providing insightful advice to the students who needed it a little less. I will confess that I still greatly miss Mike Green and his style, but he’s left daily operations to instructors who have really grown into their roles, and improve at their craft every time I see them.
I would say that this class is for low-level to mid-level shooters. If you’re are shooting high-B or better in USPSA, there is probably not enough to challenge you at this one, short of simply accelerating your times as much as possible. The level II clinics seem to offer a more appropriate challenge for those shooters. I will note, though, that most people greatly overestimate their shooting skills. Unless you’ve got that B-card in your hand, I would not assume this class is “too simple”. Fundamentals are everything.
I’ve recommended this class in the past, and I’m going to recommend it again now. The improvements made to it compared to the last time I took it are solid, and the new Green Ops qual is looking like it will be a good challenge. If you don’t know if this class is for you, there’s a pretty strong chance it is. To reference a previous blog post of mine, just enroll in the damn class. Stop making excuses.