If you are serious about developing your shooting skill, at some point you have found yourself in an unhappy plateau. You have achieved a certain level of skill and you’re comfortable performing at that level but you know that you can do better…you just don’t know how, exactly, to get to that next level. One of the most efficient ways of bumping your performance capability is to get yourself on the range with a good coach.
Note that I use the term “coach” rather than instructor, there. In my experience being a good instructor and being a good coach are very different skillsets. Unfortunately every instructor is not necessarily a good coach…someone who can offer an intelligent, detailed, custom diagnosis of your performance issues and suggest specific techniques and approaches that will boost your performance.
Ernest Langdon is, in my opinion, one of the best combinations of instructor and coach teaching classes these days. If you are a regular reader you have seen a few articles on the site that mention Mr. Langdon so you may be somewhat familiar with his background. If you aren’t, the short version is that after spending time in the USMC’s High Risk Personnel program where he had the chance to train with just about everybody worth taking a class from, Ernest went on to work for Beretta, Sig, and Smith & Wesson. He is probably most famous for upsetting the dominance of single action and striker-fired guns in competition by winning a number of titles with a traditional double action gun like the Beretta 92 and the Sig P220. A number of people argued at the time that you simply couldn’t use a traditional double action gun well, but Ernest proved them wrong.
I find Langdon’s presentation to be close to the ideal mixture of the “tactical” and the competition side of shooting. He emphasizes a high level of skill that would serve you well in just about any match you could show up to, but the presentation is always grounded in the realities of using a firearm as a tool of personal defense. I know some instructors dismiss competition as irrelevant, but I think they’re off their bean. I can’t explain why any better than EL does himself in this snippet of his lecture from day one:
There is more to successful self defense than shooting skill, certainly, but the person who has deliberately cultivated a high level of skill with their firearm will find a number of benefits should they need it. In fact, as Ernest hints at towards the end of the video, one of the key benefits may be not having to use the gun at all. I’ll talk more about that in a future article.
After a relatively brief but insightful lecture (including a proper safety brief complete with a medical plan) we began the jog, run, sprint learning process. Having trained with Langdon before, I know he is able to take the temperature of the class and modify the course to fit the students. This particular class had a number of very skilled shooters in it (some of the best I’ve ever been on the range with…and I’ve been on the range with a lot of people) and as a result the pace of the class was challenging…hence the description of jog, run, sprint. The “advanced” label on this class was not merely an advertising term. To really benefit from the class you need to have gone through some quality training previously.
I think Langdon’s gifts as an instructor and coach are most evident on the line. While running through drills each student had individual attention and feedback based on what he was seeing in their shooting and on their target:
When you’re trying to bump your shooting up to the next level, seemingly little things can make a huge difference. Something as seemingly small as how you reset the trigger can make a huge difference in your performance:
Individual feedback and coaching is combined with challenging drills that push your ability to shoot fast and accurately, forcing you outside of your comfort zone and often showing that you have the capacity to perform better than you thought you could:
One of my favorites was a speed drill I had never shot before that happens so fast I knew I would need to capture it in slow motion so you, dear reader, could see what was going on:
I don’t remember the name of this drill, only that the standard was to shoot it clean in 3.5 seconds or less. “Clean” means keeping all rounds inside the white circle in the center of the target and keeping the head shots inside the grey 3×5 card in the head box. Done from the draw, this is a challenging drill that pushes your ability to drive the gun, manage recoil, and “see what you need to see” on the sights to make a hit…all under significant time pressure. I was quite pleased that I just managed to meet the standard, shooting the drill clean (while drawing from concealment) in 3.5 seconds. Not bad for never having done the drill before.
On the second day Ernest set up a moving target system and we spent a large chunk of the day shooting at moving targets and then shooting at moving targets while moving. This is notable because in my experience very few shooters ever get the opportunity to shoot on the move, and even fewer ever have the chance to shoot at a moving target while they themselves are moving. Nobody ever stands still in a gunfight, but most good guys never have the opportunity to actually practice shooting under the conditions everybody agrees will be present in a gunfight:
This is another area where competition can be enormously beneficial even if your only goals are personal defense. Most competitions involve some shooting on the move that you wouldn’t be allowed to do on the same range under any other circumstance.
Ernest offers a blend of performance, practicality, individual coaching and unusual shooting opportunities that you won’t find in many classes these days. About the only way the class could have been better is if we had the time and opportunity to do some low light and force-on-force training…but you can only cram so much into two days of instruction. If you’re looking to push your shooting skill to the next level, a pistol class with Langdon Tactical is as good an opportunity as you’ll find.