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AAR: Red Dot Class, Modern Samurai Project, August 5th (2017), Berryville, VA

"Sooner, not faster."

I saw a few posts about a "red dot" class which was put up by a mod of primary and secondary, this instantly got my attention as I had recently posted up an article about Optic Mounted Pistols and Conceptions in Application.  I am also someone who wants my opinions and preconceptions challenged whenever feasible, so I sought out Scott Jedlinski (who was referred to the entire class as Jedi) and got a spot in this class knowing full well this was not the type of class I normally attend, specifically because it is competition focused and not tactics focused.  Regardless of this I went into the class completely open minded and ready to accept whatever results came to be from Red Dot specific instruction.  What I found was that this class was not just about optics on pistols, it was about proper pistol shooting through economy of motion. Scott's instruction is very passionate on this subject and it was very clear he believes in everything he teaches.  My goal was to challenge my opinions of optic mounted pistols and their applications.

I ran concealed the entire class:
Magpul 21 round mags, one with a Zev extension.
S&B 124gr 9mm

The First Half
Scott started off by discussing what we can expect, as students, out of the class, including a safety brief, his experience and expectations for the class, then why this class exists.  He made it a point to say that "this is not a tactics class" and that he was focusing on proper shooting with a red dot optic on a pistol.  There were 18 total students and the class was broken up into two "heats" one would shoot while the other would observe and correct as needed.  Scott started us off with a zero check at 10 yards, his standard is that three rounds need to be touching the center dot in order for the pistol to be considered zeroed.

We broke up into heats and shot until we considered our pistols zeroed at ten yards, making adjustments as needed.  Scott shot a demo of what he expected and then the students shot, this was the standard way the class went.

The students went on to zero their pistols at 10 yards.

Your buddy/heat partner was expected to help you out by calling hits and advising when needed on adjustment of the optic.

Scott walked around and made sure everyone was on point everything was good to before he moved on.

After zeroing the pistols, Scott went right into stance.  Specifically talking about the type of stance which were popular, reasons for a particular stance, explaining why one stance is more viable than other and what type of testing is required to determine the proper stance.  Scott wanted to make sure the students had the tools required to diagnose themselves and others outside the class.

Scott pointing out where we need to be looking and why when developing our shooting stance.

What happens when are not looking where we need to be.

Scott demonstrated a method for the students to figure out if a stance is suitable for recoil management.

Scott demonstrated proper and improper elbow positions, explaining why having elbow bent is a good idea.

Especially when dealing with recoil management.

He even showed us his patented Jedi Stance.

Kidding, of course, he was just showing us how not to stand and reasons why people do stand a certain way, incorrectly.

The students then broke up into their two man groups and started vetting their stances against each other the way Scott showed.

As needed, Scott's assistant Instructor for the day, Jose, stepped in and explained why something should be done in a different, usually tactical, way.  "Still isn't a tactics class..."

After the stance explanation, Scott went into showing how different ammo will impact differently when using a Red Dot on a pistol, he used some 9mm steel cased Tula ammo and higher end match ammo in his Glock 34 to show this on a target.

Scott explained that zeroing your Red Dot with premium defensive loads and then shooting Winchester White Box will probably yield you different results, even at 10 yards.  So knowing how your particular pistol with your particular Red Dot (since there are plenty of different types out there) will work with the type of ammo you use is the right way to go about figuring out how to call your shots.  He showed that even at 10 yards, with his pistol, there was an obvious zero difference.

Scott then went into explaining presentation of draw strokes and fundamentals, showing what he has seen people do and what the right way of using body mechanics.

"The hardest thing to do is to stop doing useless stuff.  Useless stuff makes the dot hard to find." Scott explains why some draw strokes make the red dot hard to find, not because of the red dot, but because the draw stroke has issues.

Scott explained in detail what it should look like and why.

Also talking about when should the trigger be prepped to fire, as some people would take too long and wait until they present the pistol in order to fire, why this was incorrect.  Scott demonstrated one shot from the draw.

Each heat went and shot one to three shots from the draw.

Scott walked around and pointed out movement which had no purpose, helping to isolate and stop it when possible.

Students ran this for a mag or two until Scott was confident everyone understood what was required.

Scott also demoed a drill which each student shot in order to figure out how to properly grip the pistol to track the dot in recoil. After the students turned money into noise for a little bit, we moved on to draw strokes and one to three shots from the draw.  Scott demonstrated it and the students shot afterwards.

Scott explained why the dot moved on an angle and what was going on with stand and grip position on the gun.

Scott went on to explain what would happen and what the students would see if they had proper grip position.

Jose weighed in on this topic further, with hand placement on the pistol.

Scott also showed that certain grips, like the type which make your thumbs and knuckles turn white are probably not the right way to be holding your gun for this purpose.

Scott then went on to demo one shot from the draw at 10 yards on a BC steel.

The students broke up into two groups at opposite ends and everyone ran through the one shot from draw drill.

Scott used a timer to signal and gave out times for each set of shooters, it was a non-competition competition.  Scott also made sure to point out to shooters when they were doing excessive movements which did not aid in their overall draw.

"Can you tell me why are doing that? No? Then stop doing that." Scott stopped the drill whenever there was something he wanted to make a point about, he would explain what was going on, why it was happening and advised of methods/steps to take in order to prevent it.

Students went on to do the drill in pairs.

Jose stepped in and pointed out proper hand placement along after Scott explained it.

Scott went on to explain draw stroke further in depth regarding the two hand shirt rip draw.

When it was my turn I started off slow in the 1.2x-1.1x area and ended up in the .9x area with my standard one hand clear method of drawing.  Going this fast, however, means that I pick up the dot at the very last millisecond before firing.  We then moved onto one shot from the draw without picking up the dot, but rather using back plate shooting, ghost ringing with the dot or using the top of the topic to cut the target in half.

Scott explained these methods as "the secret sauce" and showed how to ride the recoil of the first two to three shots to finding the dot, then using the dot to shoot two precision shots into the "T" headshot area.  The students all went on to do this.

After this was run, Scott went around asked each student what they thought and what worked for them.  All of these methods I have heard and used before, I am intimately familiar with back plate shooting and in this particular context it is applicable.  Ghost ringing and top of red dot housing indexing has never worked for me, probably because I did not put enough time into them.  Different methods worked for different people naturally, this is one of those types of situations which requires more experimentation rather than one way to approach something.  Students were given enough time to figure out which method worked for them and try others to see if they would work as well.  Most students were able to figure out which method worked for them.

After Lunch
Scott got his gamer belt out, running OWB for the rest of the class and he began to talk about one shot from the draw at various distances.

Scott demonstrated at each distance of 5, 10 and 15 yards.

Then the students went on to take turns in their respective heats, the point was to draw and put the dot in the A zone as fast as possible and pressing the trigger accurately.

The students did this at the various distances and then Scott put everyone back up to the 5 yard line again, this time the students ran the distances on a timer and Scott gave out times each time.

This evolution helped the students figure out their times for accurate shooting at distance while putting the red dot over the target.  Scott called out the last time for each round and after a while the students were able to get pretty proficient of all being right around 2 seconds at 10 and 15 yards.  During this drill, Scott explained various differences in draw strokes when going from IWB concealment to OWB.  

Whenever possible Scott pointed out the times and made an example of explaining what a good time was at a respective distance.

We finished up with Scott and Jose talking about their experience with competition shooting and how they favor competition shooting, making the case for competing.  This was preaching to the choir for the majority of the students at the class.

After the finishing appeal for competing, the end of class match was setup and everyone ran it twice, one as a practice run and the second as  a score run.  The stage itself was not complex in setup, and offered a good bit of variation of tone/tempo of shooting as well as a mandatory reload (not that it made you reload while you had rounds left, but that you will run out of bullets in a standard magazine before you finish shooting).

Each student ran the "match" individually and it was scored each time.

I threw my Sony HDR-AS100V action camera around my head and recorded both my runs.  First run I made sure to find my dot each and every single shot, you can notice that my first round on steel doing this was delayed as I was searching for the dot.  First run was 22.xx seconds and every target had two A-zone hits.  Second run I only found the red dot when on the second set of three targets, the rest were back plate shooting.  Mostly A's, a few B's and C's as well as one miss which put me at a 5.6 hit factor.  If I did not miss that one round it would have been in the 6.5 area per Scott.  Either way, this was vastly outside my normal shooting or training paradigm, as I do not practice this way for this purpose.

Class photo's are always fun:

This class covered a lot of content outside the pistol mounted red dot shooting concept.  Scott has an awesomely passionate way of teaching and putting information out there for the students to absorb.  There were numerous platinum nuggets of information in the form of phrases which made this class awesome for me.  "Most people translate speed into frenetic useless motion. Speed is the economy of motion." Was a good one to remember as it parallels both the tactical and competition worlds. "Muscles do not have memory.  Myelination through proper repetition is the path to subconscious competence." While this is difficult for most to grasp as many people have been taught about "muscle memory" for a long time, Scott explained the concept well while dismissing any possible thought otherwise.  One aspect of this class which was a completely new concept for me was Scott's take on red dot mounted pistol accuracy, "why are you holding the dot to a higher standard than your irons? Stop doing that and you will be just as fast, if not faster, up close," while echoing a quote he credited to Steve Anderson,"The dot is a serving spoon, not a scalpel."   This is an interesting concept and takeaway from the class which I will have to do some more work by myself on the range in order to develop.  If a student is able to take away one really good piece of information to consider from a class then the class is worth the price of admission, if a student can take away numerous practical concepts which may help him develop his skill set in a particular area, then the class is worth its weight in gold.  This class gave me a lot of information to consider while I did not cover half of it here, the way Scott presented it is with genuine concern and passionate explanation.  There are not many instructors teaching who come off this way, and it is not something which can be done without confidence in the material presented.  

So was my mind changed in regard to red dot mounted pistols and their application? No.  As I stated at the end of the class when all the students were giving their personal observations, this class is excellent for those who just put a red dot on their pistol and want to pick up the best type of habits, the quintessential "right way" of running a red dot mounted pistol, especially in competition shooting.  I am not new to red dot pistol shooting, however, as I understand most (if not all) the teaching points Scott explained before stepping foot in the class.  In order for me to be as fast as I am with iron sights, it would require me to stop training the way I do now and to start training exclusively with a red dot mounted pistol, this  will hinder the way I apply pistols in my daily life; which is staying alive,  as I do not, and cannot, carry a red dot pistol at work.  With that said, the reasons for carrying a red dot mounted pistol are the same compelling reasons I touched on in the article I posted, Optic Mounted Pistols and Concepts in Application, bad eyes, as a training aid or need for accuracy at distance.  If anything this class confirmed most of what I had previously stated and believed.  I will not get into the competition versus tactical training issue as I do not want to make this about an indictment of competition or tactical training.  I will just state that regardless of what your particular reason for using a red dot mounted pistol is, you should get competent instruction on this platform and the instructor should have the pedigree of being able to teach these concepts effectively.  Scott is able to do this easily, so if you find yourself in a situation where you want to learn more about red dot pistol shooting, this class should be a must attend for you.