It’s December, and that typically means I’m trying to get in that last class or two to finish up my training year. I had been debating whether to take the Green Ops Defensive Pistol Clinic I. On one hand, it’s a great class, but on the other hand, I’ve come pretty far with my pistol shooting and I wasn’t sure it was going to be as relevant to me.
I decided that one way to make it relevant was by using a gun I was not at all familiar with: the Silencerco Maxim 9. The Maxim 9 is an integrally suppressed, roller-delayed 9mm pistol, and I wanted to see if it was really up for some harder use… or if it was just a range toy. Read on for my impressions of both the class and the gun.
Disclaimers of Sources of Bias: I received a slight discount ($24) as a returning student and AAR writer. I am also one of the admins on their Facebook alumni group, which is more of a job than a perk, but I suppose has some influence on my perspective.
Class Title: 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. Students will learn self-diagnostic skills to continue development of their own personal performance.
Cost: $160, not including the discount mentioned above.
Round Count: The stated round count was 300. The actual round count was around 150.
Instructors: The lead instructor was Luke Brooks, who is a USPSA competitive shooter. Assistant instructors were Jo’shua Shaw (a USPSA GM), Brian Christian, and Julian Akistan. All of them were active instructors, and demo’d the various drills very competently. Also, kudos to them for wearing masks while they were giving individual instruction; I know it’s not fun, but I appreciated it.
Location/Date: December 13, 2020 from 10AM-2:30PM at the “Stone Quarry range” in Culpeper, VA. You’ve probably read about Stone Quarry in my other AARs, but just in case: it’s some privately owned land with a backstop that is an old quarry face. It’s a huge backstop, which is great, but has a tendency to toss chips of stone back at you once in a while. There are some various tables and benches, along with a pair of porta-potties.
Weather: 60f and sunny. Quite a change over earlier in the week. I was in short sleeves the entire time.
Equipment Details: I used my usual Bladetech double belt with QLS drop offset holster setup. But, in honor of the Cyberpunk 2077 release and to keep things interesting, I brought out a gun I’ve never used before in a class: my Silencerco Maxim 9. It was completely stock, with no red dot. I used a Blackhawk! CQC (non-SERPA) holster by making use of an adapter plate.
The Maxim 9 in long config (what I used) weighs 39oz, which is really not THAT heavy. My preferred Sig P320 X5 Legion is 43.5 oz with a magwell. The problem the Maxim 9 has is that it’s long, even if it’s fairly well-balanced. Thus, even though it does not weigh more than some popular competition pistols, it feels harder to control in terms of momentum. It also has a terrible trigger pull – not super heavy, but very gritty with a long, long break. About the only thing I like about the controls are the slide release (huge!) and the mag catch size (just right!).
I’ve also been pretty vocal about my terrible out of the box experience with it; it had to go back to Silencerco twice before it would even reliably ignite a primer. It does seem like they got it right the second time around; I only had two stovepipe malfunctions, and I’m willing to attribute those to my medium-power reloads.
That may sound like a lot of criticism, and it’s true. But the other thing to remember here is that for all of that, it’s still far more convenient (and reliable?) than trying to run a discrete suppressor on a factory gun. You can argue about whether the Maxim 9 is a practical gun; you can’t argue against it being a MORE practical solution to the problems of suppressed pistols for duty usage. (It’s also a surprisingly natural pointer, and has a huge sight radius.)
I used my Magpul Terrain sunglasses yet again, and they served with distinction. No fogging, no problems. Sunglasses are hugely useful at Stone Quarry, since you can get a lot of sun glare.
Preparation Drills: Well, I just took the Modern Samurai Project AIWB+RDS two day class earlier in the week, so I was coming in fairly hot as things go.
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: We had a pretty big class – about 20 people. It was a very diverse group, including four women. Skill levels were all over the place, but I was surprised that, even with all the self-professed newer shooters, there were very few targets that looked like they were shotgun patterns during the slow-fire drills.
TD1: Once everyone arrived at the range, we had instructor and student introductions. Luke gave a short medical and safety brief. It was the usual deal – what to do if there’s a training accident, and not to point guns at Josh (or other people, but apparently Josh is a gun magnet).
Once we had figured out where not to point guns, Josh delivered a good talk about how to get better with guns in general: live-fire, dry-fire, competition, training, and video. He kept it short because the instructor team wanted to get us to live-fire as quickly as possible, but I think it did make an impression on the students. I’ve certainly been thinking about how to do more video myself – maybe with a tripod or similar.
With this, we went over to the line to gun up and do some dry-fire. One thing I thought was clever was that the instructors separated out the issue of straight dry-fire from the separate issue of drawing and dry-firing. I’ve seen some instructors who really are only using this portion of the class to make sure no one’s going to shoot themselves in the leg during a draw and reholster, but Luke and the team did a really good job of explaining the principles of a good grip. I could tell the November Modern Samurai Project class must have made a big impact on him, because a lot of the ideas were almost the same as what Scott taught us (note: credit was given!).
Throughout the class, the instructor team was always checking on individual students during the drills. While I think really talented instructors can handle a lot of students quite well, there’s really no substitute for quantity. The instructors individually observed and guided every student in every drill for at least one rep. If an instructor thought the student needed another rep, they got one. It was a very well-oiled machine!
It was now time for live-fire! The class was divided into two relays. The first drill was a fairly simple “draw and then slow-fire 5 rounds into a 3×3 box at 5yds”. It took me a couple repetitions to determine where my irons were hitting (center hold, a bit to the left), but once I had that sorted out, things came together for me pretty nicely. The Maxim 9’s front-heavy weight instantly punished a bad grip; this may not be a great virtue in a duty pistol, but for training, it really revealed grip problems quickly and efficiently.
All of live-fire drill sessions were about 12-25 rounds each. At no point did I ever need more than a single reload of my 20rd mags. I think this is about the right amount of ammo to throw at a drill sequence in a level I class, and it did lessen concerns about ammo management.
This segued into a relatively more challenging “draw and fire a single round”, which we did about 15 reps of. Look, 5yds isn’t really a hard shot by any stretch, but like with every other drill from every other instructor, the difficulty is just as much how you challenge yourself with the drill. It’s an easy drill if you move slow; it’s a little harder if you’re trying to move fast. I had a couple of sloppy hits to start, but then started trying to apply the whole 80/20 thing we had discussed in the MSP class I took that week – decelerating at the end of the draw, and trying to ride momentum rather than fight it. Things improved a fair bit after that.
Once we were done with our draws, we went straight into the “go faster” drills, namely a “shoot 3” and bill drill. Luke and the team did a nice job of explaining how these drills expose your terrible grip. I have to admit, riding the Maxim 9 through a bill drill was definitely an experience. You have a really long front-end levering the hell out of your grip during recoil, and while I kept my hits in the A-zone, it was hardly pleasant. Compare this to something like the P320 X5 Legion, where the heavy part is the grip, and you start understanding the appeal of those tungsten grip modules.
I also noticed that the Maxim 9’s slide isn’t necessarily conducive to a super-high grip. The technique where you lightly rest the forward thumb on the slide isn’t so hot; my thumb, at least, wanted to go right where the slide hits the fixed part of the frame holding the barrel, giving it a nasty pinch. Trying to put my thumb further back put it in the lightening cut, which meant the slide could basically pound your thumb backwards. This isn’t the end of the world, but it was a bit of a surprise.
This was also the only time where my Maxim 9 got hot enough for me to notice. It wasn’t uncomfortably hot or causing my holster to melt or any of those horror stories you hear online, but it was a nice little hand-warmer while I shivered in the shade. If we had kept on doing bill drills for a while longer, I do wonder what might have happened, though.
After shooting fast, it was time to switch targets. We went from the Green Ops target to this guy:
Is it weird that this is the first time I’ve ever shot a target that features a human being with real-deal bullets (vs sims)? I didn’t find it any problem to pull the trigger on him, it just took me a moment to think about where I was going to point the gun.
With our new baddie in place, we did some 1-reload-2 drills from the draw. This is one area where the Maxim 9 doesn’t give up a lot; I found reloads on it to be speedy due to the very large slide release and generous magazine mouth. I decided to be a little fancy and give my robber friend the old “2 to the chest 1 to the head” treatment. (Like I said, you gotta challenge yourself.)
With reloads covered, we went on to malfunction drills. I won’t bore you with details, but we discussed three types:
- Empty chamber (mag didn’t seat)
- Double feed
The instructors covered malfunctions pretty thoroughly, and we did a few drills of each. I discovered the Maxim 9 has a particularly ugly version of stovepipe where the case can get stuck in a position against the frame that simply tilting sideways won’t fix; you need to turn the gun all the way upside down.
Yes, this happened to me in class, and, no, it was not fun to clear.
The last drills of the day were one-handed drills. Josh did a good job of explaining how to shoot one-handed, and we did a series of 2-strong-2-weak drills from the draw. One-handed shooting is a thing I’m not terrible at, and even with the Maxim 9’s long front-end, I didn’t have too bad of a time keeping my shots in the A-zone.
Class concluded with individual runs at the pistol patch qual. Unsurprisingly, I did not make it. I did pretty well considering my gun of choice, though.
Class Debrief: We finished up with brass collection and a hot wash. Thanks to the sedate round count, brass cleanup was pretty tolerable. It seemed like everyone had a great time in the class and learned something, which is about as much as you can ask for.
After Class: Some students stuck around for some additional private pistol instruction. I had to get home for some Chanukah-related things, so I declined.
Conclusions: As always, I had a great time, and definitely learned a bit about shooting the Maxim 9. I very much appreciated the short format of the class, since I really did want to spend the evening with my family at a different activity.
Are these basic classes as intrinsically challenging to me as they once were? Not really. But being able to have a platform to try out new gear where it will get tested in a non-ideal environment is worthwhile. And going over the basics never hurts, either – I’ve been shooting red dot pistols so much these days that using iron sights, especially night sights, almost felt like a new unfamiliar platform. I was applying what I had learned at other classes to this one, and trying to synthesize it with the techniques the instructors were teaching. That is how you grow as a shooter.
This is still one of the best beginner pistol classes you can get in this region, especially if you’re looking more towards a home defense / tactical as opposed to concealed carry perspective. I saw a lot of newer pistol owners doing some shockingly good shooting as a result of the instruction they received, and I highly recommend the class for anyone who’s not 100% certain of their abilities with a pistol, and it’s worth a go even for people who think they are.
As for the Maxim 9… geez, it’s a pistol you want to love, but the flaws make it hard. Fixing the trigger would probably go a long way to making it the pistol it should be, but even then, it has subtle ergonomic issues that I’m a little conflicted about. I have to admit, if suppression were a really big deal to me in this application, I’d probably find the flaws to be less maddening… so if you just want the most practically usable suppressed pistol platform out there, there is nothing better than the Maxim 9 out there. It is certainly a lot of pistol for the $1150 ($800+stamp+transfer) I paid for it.