(lead photo credit: David Simerly of DNA Guns took this shot, and it’s awesome, like every other photo he takes)
One thing you never have seen on this blog previously is a review of a two day class. Two day classes are almost universally held on Saturdays and Sundays, and given my Sabbath observance, I can pretty much never attend.
But as bad as 2020 has been, I did get one very special treat: a two-day Modern Samurai Project class held on Tuesday and Wednesday. I immediately jumped on it, and told my employer I’d be on PTO (and don’t bother me!). Read on for my impressions of the class.
Disclaimers of Sources of Bias: I received a 20% returning student discount of $90.
Class Title: The MSP Path to Performance: 1-Day AIWB + 1-Day Red Dot Pistol Course
Class Description: From the website:
Although it has been around for a long time, Appendix Carry has seen a resurgence in popularity in the last 5 or so years. While many people realize that it is an ergonomically more efficient form of concealed carry, many misconceptions still exist limiting its true potential. Topics Covered:
• Why AIWB is more efficient than other forms of carry
• Holster Concerns
• Holster customization
• Clothing considerations
Learning the draw from beginning to end (garment clear, firing grip, marrying the hands, presentation)
Drills designed to increase performance or understanding for self-diagnosis.
Red Dots on pistols are becoming more popular as options for carry weapons. Part of mastery is training – here it is!
• Zeroing your red dot. 10 yard zero. 25 yard confirmation. Ammo selection.
• Draw and how to stop fishing for the dot. Why back up irons are necessary?
• Only use the necessary amount of information required to make an acceptably accurate shot at the speed and distance required.
• Red dots up close. 5 yards and in.
• Red dots at distance
• Speed: Efficiency of draw and presentation. Concealed and Open setups. Speed is the economy of motion. The Langdon presentation method. Speed is not useless frenetic movement. Micro Drill training method.
• Dot tracking: Grip, stance, dot movement, predictability. Stop over confirming the dot!
• Modes of Practice: Speed mode. Accuracy Mode. Match/For Realz Mode.
• How to get better on your own. Dry fire for skill building. Live fire for confirmation.
• Why you should compete.
• Mini match to test skills.
Cost: $450 (but as noted in the leading disclaimer, I only paid $360)
Round Count: I expended ~480 rounds. I ran dry or missed reps on enough drills that I think it was about almost exactly a 500 round class. The listed round count was 1000 rounds, so we came pretty far under that. Given the price of ammo, I’m not complaining. The round counts were fairly rigorously prescribed by the drills.
Instructors: Scott “Jedi” Jedlinkski. Jedi is a life-long martial artist who got into competitive shooting about a decade ago. He’s a master-class Carry Optics shooter in USPSA, and is widely recognized as one of the experts – if not THE expert – in appendix in waistband (AIWB) carry. You can read more about him at his website.
Scott is a funny, passionate, and sometimes profane guy who has clearly spent a lot of time THINKING about the whys of what he’s teaching, and not just the whats. He also cares about his students, deeply. No matter what he says, that much absolutely comes through.
He’s also very good about his citations. He’ll tell you when he came up with something, but he also borrows and credits from any number of other instructors. Everyone learns from someone, and we’re in the golden age of firearms training; not only are you learning new skills, you are learning about new people to develop them from.
Location/Date: Shadow Hawk Defense in Hedgesville, WV, on December 8-9, 2020. Shadow Hawk is awesome, and has extensive action bays and a couple larger ranges. We were on the larger “alpha range”, which is what I’d describe as a 24 lane open range, with 12 of them under a large pavilion. We didn’t bother with the pavilion part of the range.
Facilities on the shooting range outside the clubhouse were pretty limited; just a porta-potty and a single picnic table, really. I’d encourage Shadow Hawk to build up a few more tables, as I had to pretty much operate out of the back of my car.
Weather: Weather on day 1 was brutal,. Temperatures were 30-40f,, and we had winds that were up to 20mph. Everyone was suffering from the effects, myself included.
Weather on day 2 was a lot better. It was in the 30s and 40s, but the wind died down quite a lot, and the sun gave us a bit more warmth. Still wouldn’t be my first choice for class weather, but it was tolerable.
Equipment Details: I used a Sig P320 X5 Legion with Deltapoint Pro. Mags were all 21rd Sig P320 magazines, and I used my 147gr reloads. I had a couple stovepoints during weak-hand-only drills, but otherwise was quite pleased with how the system performed. The only thing that sorta went wrong was the magwell snagging on my shirt when doing AIWB draws.
On day 1, I used a PHLster Floodlight TLR holster for AIWB. It works well enough, but I think I torqued down the retention too far, and pulling the gun was a little harder than it should have been. I swapped the pull-the-dot loops for Discrete Carry Concepts clips. Not sure if I have strong feelings either way about it. On day 2, I swapped over to a much more familiar GLS holster on a Blade-Tech double belt.
This was my first class with any use of sunglasses. I had taken advantage of the Magpul sale on the Summit and Terrain sunglasses, and was rocking a pair of polarized Terrains all of day 1 and about half of day 2. I was very pleasantly surprised by them; they were extremely comfortable to wear, and did a great job of toning down the harsh glare of the sun throughout class. Sunglasses are an obvious necessity for some people, but if you’re like me and just go with clear eyepro all the time, I’d recommend checking out the Summit and Terrain sunglasses while they remain on sale at $40.
Preparation Drills: Nothing in particular. I’ve been slacking about dry-fire, and I think it showed.
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: The class of 14 was all male, but diverse otherwise. Everyone brought red dot pistols, and I saw a pretty good mix of Glocks and Sigs, with a smattering of other pistols as well. Skill-wise, it was similarly a mix; a couple shooters were a bit less experienced, but there were a fair number of switched-on shooters, which I like.
Whenever I hear someone say “this is my first class” at an MSP class, I get a little nervous (I’ve never been disappointed, unfortunately). I have no idea about how Jedi feels about this topic, but I would probably not make an advanced pistol class like this my first class. There are plenty of very competent instructors out there who can take you through your first classes, and you will get more out of this one if you take a couple others first.
Further disclaimer: I was so focused on learning the subject matter that I didn’t take a ton of notes. I will undoubtedly forget some stuff and/or list it out of order. Don’t take this as a 100% inclusive AAR.
TD1: We kicked off the class by meeting up at the Shadow Hawk clubhouse to talk through some safety and medical, as well as doing introductions. There were no big surprises here, but I do enjoy hearing why other people are coming to the course. Jedi also spent some time introducing himself and what the course was going to involve.
We moved on to alpha range after the introductions. All drills were run in two relays; I was lucky enough to have my frequent training and competition buddy Derek there, so we partnered up on different relays. I don’t know if the partnering thing was official or not, but I saw some other people doing it, too. I highly recommend this, especially for advanced classes; your friend is going to see you doing things you simply can’t see yourself doing.
After getting the targets setup, we commenced with a discussion of zeros (10yd vs 15yd vs 25yd) and related zero confirmation exercise. Once I remembered how to shoot a pistol (it had been a couple weeks), it turned out my P320 was still zeroed just fine.
Jedi seems to be of the opinion that a 10yd vs 15yd zero is not really of a ton of consequence, except insofar as a good 10yd zero is very preferable to a rougher 15yd zero. I whole-heartedly agree with this; I’ve done it both ways, and damned if I could tell a difference with practical shooting. People waste a lot of brainpower on debating this, and I’m not sure why.
At this point, we got into AIWB technique. I would broadly divide the AIWB draws we learned into three methods:
- Drawing from a hands-up fighting stance
- Drawing from a surreptitious “cheater” stance (firing hand covering support hand already grabbing a garment)
- Drawing from a hands-partially-in-pockets position
Now, I must shamefully admit that I have no use whatsoever for AIWB. I can’t concealed carry in Maryland, and my professional circumstances don’t really make DC or VA places that I could carry too often. I absolutely think AIWB works and it’s the fastest concealed carry method, but if you asked me if this was a subject I was enthusiastic about, I’d probably say no.
But, here’s the thing: while AIWB was the focus, it was, in many ways just a means to an end, namely to discuss how the human body works. The thing that Scott does better than any other instructor I’ve ever trained with is explain – and show – why this stuff works OUTSIDE of a shooting context. And, further, he doesn’t really ask that you believe it. He gives you the opportunity to do things in multiple ways, and determine for yourself what’s going to work for you.
For example, we spent a lot of time discussing foot position. A lot of people get taught the isoceles is the way to go. But Scott really was able to prove to use that putting your support foot forward (not your strong foot back!) yielded real results in terms of recoil control, both in terms of practical demonstration and running drills both ways. Similarly, very small changes in grip with the thumbs and pinkies made a big difference in shooting fast. I wasn’t running a 2s bill drill by the end of class, but my ability to control the dot was greatly improved from where I started.
Thus, while I didn’t care so much about AIWB, I learned quite a lot from everything surrounding it. I guess I’m trying to say that if you see the AIWB one-day thing and are like “ugh, no interest”, you should try it anyways. You’ll absolutely learn something, and it was clear immediately what I had been missing the previous times I had taken only the Sunday red dot portion of the class.
We had multiple contests for prizes in the class both days, and the timer came out for use frequently. I didn’t win anything (albeit I came close once or twice) , but I thought it really did a good job of showing how the wheels come off when the stress comes on.
Unfortunately, the weather really was not cooperating with us. The wind was constantly ripping targets off the backers, and the wind chill was below freezing most of the day. No one was operating at peak performance in that kind of weather, but looking back, I think it was valuable. A lot of people train for concealed carry in their house or in similarly ideal circumstances. How many are training for AIWB while wearing a heavy coat and multiple layers?
TD2: The second day kicked off with a berm drill. For those of you not familiar with berm drills, you take your gun and fire it into the berm as fast as you can. No targets, just aim and pull that trigger. The objective was to get used to the idea of shooting fast, and explore how your dot moves for you.
With the fact that, yes, we can pull that trigger fast established, we went through a really detailed assessment of our shooting stances and grips, step-by-step. We started with our initial, terrible grips and stances, and slowly building in what we had been learning. It really made a impact on me, anyways, and I know I wasn’t the only one. I went from a red dot bouncing to the top of the optic to a red dot bouncing only about halfway up. Jedi reinforced how to keep our grip with the help of a sharpie.
We also explored the idea of not using the dot at all for shooting at very close ranges, like 3yds, and just using the frame of the optic or the back of the gun. This was a rather interesting exercise to me, and I was able to do really good shooting at close range with only the back of the gun as my guide – deliberately ignoring my optic entirely. I don’t generally have trouble picking up my dot off the draw, but I think showing how hard it was to miss the A-zone (and certainly the C-zone) at 3yds with any sort of reference was quite enlightening. I want to be clear; this was NOT point shooting. You were using a reference on the gun, not just relying on your body to do all the work.
This lead to some 3&2 drills. The 3&2 is a 3yd drill where you shoot 3 in the A-zone and then 2 in the head box. Time is supposed to be something like 2.5-ish (2s is the black belt standard, IIRC). It’s really a fiendish mash-up of testing a bunch of different skills; your ability to shoot off a rough index, alter your precision, master momentum / recoil riding, and understand how your offset looks. I didn’t do bad at all; this is an easy one to practice at home, too.
Something I guess I haven’t mentioned thus far is that Scott always demos his drills, and he is freakishly good at dialing in his times. There’s a lot of mastery involved in going fast; there is even more mastery involved in going at a pre-selected time. Given that he had an injured leg on day 2, and we were all pretty cold throughout, his ability to nail it every time was astounding.
He also spent the time with each individual student to really diagnose their issues. This sounds easy, but I’ve been coaching a scholastic action shooting team recently, and it’s actually super hard. You really have to be dialed in and know what to look for. Jedi KNOWS. The only guy I’ve ever trained with who’s been comparable in that regard is Mike Green, and that is a very high bar.
After exploring the possibilities of not using your red dot in certain situations, we got to the more conventional subject matter of transitions and vision. While every semi-experienced shooter knows you transition “eyes first, gun second”, Jedi made some really interesting points about how to work when you’ve got all the targets in a single field of vision, and how to leverage momentum to work for you. Once I dialed in how my momentum was working, I was surprised at how fast I could transition those 1″ circles and still keep my shots within the circle.
We also did some bill drills (6 rounds, rapid fire, from the draw, into an A-zone). I’ve never been terribly good at bill drills, but I saw some modest improvement from our work in class, and even came within spitting distance of the black belt standard on one of my runs. We did it at both 5yds and 7yds, A lot of people outran their sights substantially, and their grip came apart during the drill… as Jedi noted over and over, the idea is to focus on the process, not on the results. (I’ve been thinking about that a lot.)
Somewhere in there, we also did one-handed drills. Jedi did a masterful job of showing how bad the traditional method of one-handed shooting (foot forward, arm outstretched) really is, and some different methods of holding the gun. The “delta” thumb straight up is still my favorite, but I really appreciated the emphasis on squaring shoulders, which made a big difference for me.
We finished up class with a run at the black belt standards. It will be unsurprising to read I didn’t pull it off, not even for any of the components. But I came a lot closer than I thought I would, and I think that’s an accomplishment unto itself.
Class Debrief: We went back to the clubhouse to do a hot wash and discuss our thoughts about the class. We also shook hands and got our patches, which is always cool. Plus, two free targets! Not sure where I’m going to put mine for dry-fire, but I’ll find a wall.
After Class: No formal events. I think a couple people staying in town might have gone out to dinner with Scott after TD1.
Conclusions: This was my first two day class with MSP; in fact, this was my first two day class ever, since they’re all usually Saturday/Sunday affairs. (Many thanks to Dave Luu of the Mid-Atlantic Rimfire Series for making this happen!) Even with the terrible weather, it was not quite as grueling as I anticipated. Scott knows how to pace a class, and we had reasonable breaks for reloading/hydration/snacks.
One of the hallmarks of a great class is that you keep learning from it each time you take it, even as you develop as a shooter. Sometimes, you need to develop a bit to understand the finer points of your problems. This class is one of the best examples I can think of for that; I had more than a few “aha!” moments where I really learned where I was being suboptimal with my grip and stance, and why that was. I am still figuring out the 80/20 and 90/10 thing, but the times I made a conscious effort to really decelerate near the end of my draw, things tended to go better for me. While Scott is correct that you will improve from taking the class, a lot of the long-term gains are going to come the hard way – from dry-firing consistently.
In case it’s not obvious, I strongly recommend the class. One of the students called it revolutionary during our discussion at the end of class. That’s not a bad descriptor, but the funny thing is that it’s not as revolutionary as it was five years ago. Jedi has trained so many people that the ideas have really started to spread and take hold in the performance-oriented part of the pistol shooting community. I look forward to the next time the class is held… hopefully in the middle of the week during the late spring or early fall.