Green Ops Defensive Pistol Class II AAR

I try to take a lot of Green Ops clinics, but unfortunately, due to my Sabbath observance, I don’t necessarily get a chance to take a lot of their classes. This year, I was lucky: Green Ops offered their Defensive Pistol II class on a Sunday, and I was able to sign up for it. I think the clinic format is phenomenal, but getting that full 8 hours of class in pushes you just a little harder to improvement. I’ll tell you what I thought of it after the jump!

Disclaimers of Sources of Bias: 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: Defensive Pistol II Class

Class Description: From the website: This continuation of our Defensive Pistol series includes additional drills, 25-yard qualification course of fire, and live fire malfunction clearance drills. We will begin with a review of the topics and fundamentals of marksmanship from Defensive Pistol I and move into more advanced drills. You will continue to improve your pistol handling skills while reinforcing the fundamentals of marksmanship. Timed drills will help you learn the balance between speed and accuracy.

Cost: $230, with a $35 discount – $195 total. Not a bad cost at all for a full day of training.

Round Count: ~400. The course advertised 450, so they weren’t far off.

Instructors: The course had five instructors. Luke Brooks was the lead instructor. He was very ably supported by Chris Alvarez, Jo’shua Shaw, Brian Christian, and Julian Akistan. “Ace” (real name classified) was an assistant instructor / photographer / gofer. This was a 1:2 instructor student ratio, which is pretty remarkable. The instructors were a mix of civlian and former military; you can see their bios on the Green Ops website. They were a professional crew, and very well organized. I would say that they take you seriously, but they’re humble and funny amongst each other. They also knew how to teach, and did it very well throughout the day.

A rare Ace sighting in the morning.

Location/Date: The class was conducted on October 18, 2020, at the “Stone Quarry” range near Culpeper, VA. The class ran from 8-4:00PM. The Stone Quarry range is private property backed by, you guessed it, a giant quarry wall. It is the king of all backstops, except for its predilection to sometimes toss stone chips back at you.

Weather: Cold in the morning – 40-45f. Warmed up as the day went on, and was a sunny 65f by the end of class. I came back with a slight sunburn.

Equipment Details: I used my Sig P320 X5 Legion (DPP optic), with 21rd Sig mags and 147gr handloads. No complaints; the Legion had only one malfunction (fail to fire), and I am pretty sure it was ammo related. My belt was a Blade-Tech belt with some Ghost mag pouches and a GLS wide holster hanging off it.

I really cannot say enough good things about the Legion; I know some competition shooters have had accuracy issues with it, and I suppose I agree it’s not the most accurate handgun I’ve ever owned. But it is just an extremely pleasant handgun in terms of the trigger and the recoil. I’d really love to see Sig release a cost-reduced version in the X5 series without all the slide cuts (which are unnecessary now that the CO weight limit has been raised).

Preparation Drills: The one thing I’ve been trying to spend time on over the past few months is dry-firing one-handed. I was a little skeptical it was helping, but the results of the class convinced me otherwise…

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 folks in the class; mostly men, but a couple women. Also racially diverse. Backgrounds were mostly civilian, but a couple LEOs. Skill level was all over the place. there were a couple of really sharp shooters there, but also a couple people who were in a bit over their heads.

The guns were mostly striker-fired; I’d say a bit over half were using iron sights. The day was mostly malfunction-free.

TD1 (morning): The class began with the safety and medical brief. We went over Cooper’s four rules, and discussed what to do if we had a training accident that resulted in extra holes in someone. The range is fairly remote, so transporting the injured person is something that would need to be done. (I actually think there was enough room to land a Medevac helicopter in a pinch.)

This was followed by a discussion of the Green Ops methodology of performance improvement:

  • Dry-Fire
  • Live-Fire
  • Video Analysis
  • Competition
  • Training

This is pretty well worn ground for me, but the lecture on them was well-delivered. Josh did a good job answering a question I had about practicing dry-fire draws with/without a trigger press. The reason they keep repeating these tenets is because THEY WORK.

At 9AM, we were shooting. We kicked it off with a dot torture drill at 3yds. I scored 49/50. SO CLOSE. My one-handed dry-fire was really paying off, not to mention dry-firing dot torture (which doesn’t require a timer, which makes it quite convenient!).

“It doesn’t!”

Dot torture is a great diagnostic tool, and the instructors made great use out of it. They looked at the students’ paper after every rep and tried to give feedback on what was going on. Obviously, I didn’t get a lot of feedback on mine, but sometimes, you just do good on a drill and get to enjoy it.

We moved from here into some controlled pair drills. I tried to push myself a bit, especially as we stretched out the range. I’ve gotten comfortable enough in my own skin that, while I try to keep a clean target, I’m not afraid to shank a close-C or similar if I’m trying to really push the times. As with all shooting classes, you sometimes get out of them what you want to get out of them.

I want to also note that the glare was REALLY intense. I think I may be buying myself some Wiley-X sunglasses for Chanukah.

After that, we did reloads and malfunctions. We didn’t spend a lot of time here; just a couple of basic one-reload-one drills followed by some tap-rack-bang time. I tried to spice it up by starting from the draw; this gave me more draws, and also put a little more pressure on me time-wise, since most of the class was starting from a high ready.

Something I was impressed with was the amount of time we spent on the one-handed shooting that followed. We had done a bit of one-handed shooting as part of dot torture, but opening up the distance really revealed the flaws in your technique. This is unpleasant for some people, because it really shows you what you suck at. Sometimes, instructors don’t want to provide that kind of experience to students because they’re afraid they won’t come back; however, I think anyone going to an intermediate pistol class knows they’re in for a challenge.

It was a good drill to end the morning on, since some people had targets that were more patterns than groups by the end of it. We broke for lunch afterwards. It was about a 35 minute break, which feels slightly long, but having some time to jam mags, socialize, and wind down a bit is certainly important.

TD1 (afternoon): After lunch, we went into bill drills. The instructors ratcheted up the pressure, and you started seeing more par times and competitions. I liked it!

One twist to the bill drills was doing a second set of them at 25yds (par time 7 seconds) into the Green Ops target A-zone. This is, again, not as tough a standard as 10 rounds into a B8 in 10 seconds, but it really forced you to really master your trigger and learn to read your sights (or keep on top of your dot). And, unlike the drill at 7 yards, you couldn’t see the results of what you were doing immediately to correct… you had to really trust the fundamentals and deliver on all of them.

We moved on to movement drills. These had multiple targets that you could engage as you pleased. The surprise twist was that you were moving on a diagonal. Most classes I’ve been at tend to have you moving straight towards the target, or going purely left and right. Doing diagonal movement was new, and presented its own challenges. The instructors ran two people at a time, and it was safe enough.

If I could make a recommendation, it would be interesting to try a figure-8 movement drill. This provides not only the diagonal movement, but weaves in some necessity to watch where you’re going in a general sense.

After this, we did some positional drills – standing to kneeling to prone and back, with the usual scan and assess steps. Chris did a really superb job of teaching prone with a pistol, which is something I know I’ve struggled with in the past. I am still a little shaky getting up from prone, because I am fat and uncoordinated, but the improvement felt real.

As ANY Green Ops instructor can tell you, I love barricades, and was thrilled to work the VTAC barricade drills we did at this point. Things kicked off with some basic leaning from cover drills, and then progressed into the nine-port shooting drill.

A few people had some real difficulties with the barricade drill due to the weird positions that you were forced to shoot out of. It was a combination of not being able to get in the position, and trying to shoot accurately out of it. This is a point where the student to instructor ratio really came into play; an instructor was able to take them and give them the personal hands-on off to the side that really made a difference in their performance later

We then did a man-on-man competition. This is when I had what I can only describe as an epic face plant.

I didn’t win in the end; I was a little slow and banged up and lost the next round. But I was proud that I got back up and kept going. That would not have been me two years ago.

After our barricade shenanigans, we did a walk-back drill. Rules were simple: you got three shots at each range. The max (due to time) was about 70 yards. I and three other people were able to pull it off. It was a little dicey at one point and it took my third shot to do it around 55 yards, but I had a lot of one-shot-one-hit moments, too.

Here’s the view at 70yds. We were shooting at the steel in the shade of the woods that you can barely see.

The final drill of the day was the Green Knight Pistol Patch standards. This is a four part qualification:

  1. 7 yds, 3 shots-slide lock reload-3 shots, Par time 4.0s
  2. 7 yds, 2 shots SHO, 2 shots WHO, par time 4.0s
  3. 7 yds, 1 shot in head box A zone, par time 1.5s
  4. 25 yds, 6 shots, par time 6.0s

I shot it one down (one shot missed the A-one on the 25yd), but significantly over time (except for the head shot; I did that in 1.54s. So close!). But my times were not so far off, and it does feel like something you could practice your way through, even on a static range. You would want the correct target, though; the zones on the Green Ops targets are somewhat larger than USPSA targets.

Class Debrief: Once the shooting was over, we took off our guns and gear, and engaged in a final team-building exercise: brass pick-up! Now that I’m team “reload everything”, I brought my own bucket to get some more brass for the ever-hungry reloading press. This made the whole exercise a little more tolerable than in the past.

Kneeling looks weird in pictures, I don’t know why.

Once we were done with brass pick-up, we congregated back by the benches for some final review by the instructors and some impressions from the students about the class (it was universally well-received).

Something new was handing out patches and stickers. The patches were handed out to the people who had 1) won the barricade contest and 2) dropped the fewer shots on the qual (while, presumably, maintaining competitive times). I had pulled off the second (1 down), so I got a patch! That’s always a good feeling. The stickers were for anyone who went all the way on the walk-back drill, so I also got one of those. Pretty cool!

We packed up and left after that.

After Class: I think a few people went out to dinner afterwards; I had to run home.

Conclusions: This class was perfect for me; it had some tricky but confidence-building exercises in the beginning, and then steadily ramped up in difficulty and excitement as the day went on. I really appreciated the increased emphasis on using the timers on almost every exercise, and I had a real sense of accomplishment when I performed as well as I did on the pistol qual.

I don’t want to scare people away, but I think this is worth saying: it’s a tougher class, and you really need to be squared away with your pistol accuracy at a minimum. Many people are not used to shooting at 25yds with a pistol, but being able to make A-zone hits (or at least AC-zone hits) on demand is, if not a pre-req, something you should really know how to do coming in.

Something I was blown away by was how the instructors were able to bring the weaker students up to speed. I was REALLY impressed with some of the performances they gave at the end – far better than I ever would have expected. I think this really speaks to the superb instruction ability that the Green Ops instructor cadre brings to the table. At a certain point, your shooting problems are your shooting problems, but earlier on, a bit of competent guidance can go a LONG way.

I highly recommend the class. The professionalism and competence of the instructors is outstanding, and the topics covered felt just right. If anything, it made me feel a bit inadequate as a youth shooting sports coach; these guys were teaching everything so much better than I could that it really inspires me to try to bump up my game as well.

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