The combined threats of the pandemic and ammo shortage have been causing me to be a little more selective than usual about my training selections in 2021 so far. But when I saw that Green Ops was introducing a red dot pistol skills class, I was intrigued and knew I’d be taking it. I am 100% sold on the benefits of red dot pistols, and was curious as to how Green Ops would approach that subject matter. Read on for what I thought!
Disclaimers of Sources of Bias: I received a slight discount ($36) 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: Practical Red Dot Pistol Skills
Class Description: From the website: This course will be taught by USPSA GrandMaster in Carry Optics. It is designed to provide students with the necessary skills to properly transition from using standard pistol iron sights to mini red dot sights (MRDS) for self-defense or duty use. This transitional training will include drills addressing the common concerns associated with the use of MRDS on duty pistols. Students will also improve on the skills and knowledge to successfully negotiate around obstacles and shoot on the move. This is an in-depth, comprehensive training course focusing on the fundamentals and capabilities of MRDS and to learn the proper techniques for red-dot acquisition under various conditions and circumstances.
Round Count: Listed round count was 350; by my count, we only expended about 200 rounds.
Instructors: The lead instructor was Jo’shua Shaw, who is the USPSA GM mentioned in the class description. He was assisted by Luke “Brooks”, Brian Christian, Max Delo, and Julian Akistan
Location/Date: The class was held at the Stone Quarry range in Culpeper, VA, from 8AM to about 4:45PM. 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: 45f, raining the whole time. If that sounds utterly miserable, you are not wrong… at all. The team set up some tents, which helped, but let’s face it, you were shooting in the rain constantly.
Equipment Details: Sig P320X5 Legion with a DPP, riding on a Blade-Tech belt with a GLS holster and some random mag pouches.
Ammo was my own 147gr reloads; I had one squib, which was embarrassing, but I caught it and cleared it out, so no big deal.
Preparation Drills: I’ve really been slacking on dry-fire lately, so not much. Actually, to be fair, I’ve been slacking on live-fire, too. Just been tough to get out on weekends due to the weather, and my usual indoor range is at half-capacity (ie, LONG wait times).
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.
Perhaps more germanely, I’ve taken the Modern Samurai Project red dot pistol class three times… so I am familiar with how this subject matter is taught by at least one well-regarded instructor.
Class Demographics: The class was 20 strong, and all male. It was fairly diverse otherwise. Guns were a mix of Sig P320s and Glocks, with a smattering of a couple other guns (at least one M&P 9, I think). Optics were all over the place.
I was pleasantly surprised by the level of skill displayed by all participants. There weren’t a lot of shotgun patterns on the targets, and some impressive marksmanship was on display in some cases. While this doesn’t make a huge impact on my own enjoyment of the class, it does make it safer.
TD1 (morning): I was about 20 minutes late to the class, so I got there right as the safety and medical brief kicked off. These were handled competently. I presume there were some introductions beforehand.
As you may have noticed from the class description, this is a class about red dot pistols, and the instructors advocated strongly for them. Josh went over why red dots are better than iron sights, how to select a pistol-mounted reflex sight (spoiler: RMR, HS507C, and DPP), and why proper grip and fundamentals are so important to using one effectively.
This is the first time Green Ops has offered this class. Josh really made no secret that the class heavily utilized concepts from other instructors, and liberally gave credit where credit was due. While some people may be tempted to call that copying, I’d call it “attribution and advertising”. Scott Jedlinski and Aaron Cowan aren’t going to be losing students if they come to town! (Speaking of which, I’d love to see Aaron get hosted for a Sunday class, hint-hint!)
After this introduction to the subject matter, we went out to the firing line and split into two relays. Using the Green Ops target, we did some dry-fire and then untimed live-fire to get used to our red dots – both from high ready, and from the draw. Not only was this used to assess student safety and skills, but it also gave us a chance to assess our red dot’s zero.
As I’ve commented in other AARs, Josh is an excellent instructor, and was able to perform all his drills with the level of skill you’d expect. But he also didn’t showboat, which is a refreshing trend I’ve seen from other instructors as well. The Green Ops instructor cadre has a surprising level of humility given their accomplishments, and I find them very easy to learn from.
This was followed by some B8 drills at the 10yd line. Not very difficult; for 10rds, I went 6X, with the other four rounds on black. This was another chance to tweak zeros, too.
Josh correctly noted that as terrible as the weather was, it was perhaps the best imaginable weather for proving out red dots as all-weather-capable. There were times when my DPP was literally a bowl of water when in the holster, but it still performed fine when it was time to make some noise. I will confess that, back in the day, I thought this was a much bigger problem than it has turned out to be.
In order to demonstrate acceptable dot movement, we did some berm drills. Berm drills seem like a waste of ammo, but they decouple speed of fire from the target, which allows you to shoot a lot faster – exposing flaws in your grip and trigger control.
This led into a few rounds of bill drills. This takes what you learn from the berm drill, but applies an accuracy standard to it. Everyone had a bill drill timed – I did mine in 2.8 seconds, which isn’t all that great from an absolute standpoint, but then again, most people aren’t doing their bill drills while they’re cold and soaked, either. I really made a concerted effort to work my trigger efficiently during the drill (versus just slapping the hell out of it), and I was very happy with the results.
At this point, we broke for lunch for about an hour. Everyone ate in their cars in an attempt to warm up and dry off. This worked somewhat for me, but then you just came back out half-dry… which meant you got that experience of being cold and wet a second time.
TD1 (afternoon): After lunch, we shifted gears a bit, and began exploring the outer limits of dot usage – literally!
Standing at the 5yd line, we experimented with using the dot at the very edge of the window, and moving our heads to “move the dot” while keeping the gun on target. The results of these drills weren’t so terribly surprising to me, but they did a great job of showing how you can effectively use a red dot sight even with your gun or head somewhat out of position. We even did a few drills with our sights taped over from the front, so that they would function as occluded eye gunsights. I have to admit, this part was a genuine surprise – you really give up absolutely nothing with it taped up when you’re shooting both eyes open. I may have to utilize this trick when I’m coaching SASP rimfire rifle optics next season!
I don’t think I’ve mentioned it yet, so let me be clear: the Green Ops instructors were coaching every student on every drill, sometimes more than once. The level of constant hands-on instruction you got was fantastic, as you’d expect from a student to instructor ratio of 4:1. And, while not everyone was as accomplished as Josh with a pistol, they knew their stuff, and were able to give you perspective in a way you couldn’t do for yourself as easily (at least without video).
The next drills were strong-hand-only and support-hand-only shooting. I’m not quite as practiced at this as I should be – I used to do it nightly – but I felt that Josh gave good instruction on the appropriate technique for this. As I noted to him after class, this was perhaps the only part of the class that I felt could use further refinement; I watched my “relay partner” really misuse his thumbs, and I think a couple minutes of explanation up front might have helped him.
Now, what followed was a humbling 25yd B8 drill for a final zero confirmation. We did it three times – five rounds each – and I really had much more vertical spread than I felt I should. This is something I clearly need to invest some more time in! I found that as the dot covered more of the target, I was focusing more on the dot than the target, which then resulted in some fun eye-dominance shifts (I’m cross-eye dominant). I literally had to close my eyes and shake my head to get my brain re-oriented into target focused mode. I don’t do a lot of slow-fire at 25yds – I’m generally just banging steel – so I just didn’t have as much practice slowing down and concentrating.
The second-to-last drill of the class was a casino drill. I really like casino drills for the mental processing challenge they present; the idea that you’re going to need to think a moment about when and where those bullets need to be put is a valuable one, and it’s often missing from pure skills classes as opposed to some of the better concealed carrying classes (like John Murphy’s at FPF Training).
The class concluded with a bit of near-to-far, fast-to-focused shooting (2rds on paper at 3yds, 1rd on steel at ~20yds). I think transitions got a bit of short shrift due to time, which is a shame; this is arguably one of the places where red dots really excel over iron sights. However, I did like how this drill was structured to wrap a couple of concepts into one, and the long 75 degree transition presented much more challenge than some of the shorter ones you see on El Presidente drills and plate racks.
Class Debrief: We got together and talked about our impressions of the class. I think most people were just in a mood to get home and get dry and warm after eight hours out there. After the class, Green Ops sends out an email with some further information, as well as an opportunity to get a certificate for your records (which I appreciate and make use of!).
Conclusions: If I were to describe this class in a phrase, it would be “Introduction to Red Dot Pistols” or “That Class You Should Take Before The MSP Red Dot Class”. It was clearly structured more towards novice-intermediate shooters than intermediate-advanced shooters, and I think that’s a market niche that really needed filling. The class made a very convincing argument as to the general superiority of reflex sights on pistols, and the improvement that the students exhibited over the class was plain to see – both to me, and to them.
I’d highly recommend this class to anyone looking to explore a red dot on their pistol for the first time, or wanting to get some basic refinements on their technique. You could just haul your red dot pistol out to a defensive pistol class, but I don’t think you’d come away with the same specific knowledge about the advantages of your sight, either. I am admittedly not probably the target audience for the class, but I enjoyed it and got some food for thought as to things I could do better, and that’s worthwhile unto itself.