On September 27th, 2020, I had an opportunity to take a class with our own Erick Gelhaus at a California Bay Area indoor range. I’ve wanted to post this sooner, but work and home have kept me from sitting down and writing a quality overview.
I believe this was the first time Erick taught this specific course for Defensive Accuracy.
Upfront, I took the class specifically to see how Erick teaches a course geared toward students who are newer to defensive shooting. I recently transitioned from a full time training position at my agency, having been in charge of the in-service/sworn officer firearms training program and a gap I found in my abilities as an instructor was working with students who had minimal experience behind a gun. Typically, my students were those who have at least gone through our 3-week basic academy firearms training (which is more training than your typical CCW carrier will seek out in their carrying lifetimes).
Additionally, having recently bought a 1911, my first pistol with an external safety, I wanted some tips on running the thumb safety and I knew Erick had a lot of experience with those types of guns.
Bottom line, this class was time and money well spent. Erick brought to the table teaching points and drills informed by years of street experience, personal skill, and decades of training with some of the best in the industry. Though I was not the intended audience for this course, I still found it to be a good tune up, especially the one-handed shooting portions. From a teaching skills standpoint, I picked up a few new tips and considerations when coaching newer students.
The course was 6 hours long, with occasional short breaks. The class progressed logically starting with a short introduction followed by a concise lecture which framed the context of civilian defensive shootings. Following the lecture was range time which consisted of an individual assessment of each student followed by skills and drills gradually increasing in round count and complexity.
The main topics covered were presentations from low ready, the draw, and multiple shots into multiple targets, with most skills having a one-handed (both strong and support) segment devoted to it. Peppered between the drills were quick lessons on subjects such as targeting vital zones and stoppage clearing.
Erick live-fire demoed each drill and showed impressive shooting skills on demand (such as tearing out the x-ring on the B8 bull at 5 yards while shooting half second splits--all while using a 9mm iron sighted M&P in crappy lighting).
With this class taking place in the midst of the pandemic driven ammo shortage, I appreciated the emphasis on quality reps and low round count drills (I shot around 180 rounds, with the course calling for 225). The quality of reps was facilitated by priming skills with dry practice before going live, using the black of a B-8 bullseye for our acceptable hit zone, slowly increasing target distances between reps, and regular repairing of the target so students had constant feedback as to where their shots were landing. Erick also made sure to pay individual attention to each student during various parts of the class.
With 6 students on the line, our abilities spanned from experienced shooters to safe beginners, which can be a challenge to manage for any instructor. On top of that, two of the students spoke English as a second language, which required coming up with different analogies that would make more sense to someone who wasn’t a native speaker. Nonetheless, Erick was able to adapt the curriculum and his instruction to accommodate the different skill levels present.
For example, a couple of the students did not yet have a solid grasp of the marksmanship fundamentals. Erick made sure to spend a little extra time with those students to improve their experience, while minimizing the impact on the rest of the class. It was a calculated compromise that was aimed at making the course beneficial for all present. Later on, Erick was gracious enough to share with me the stair stepped drills he used to first demo a clean trigger press, which quickly progressed with the students experiencing/executing a good trigger press of their own.
At the end of the class Erick genuinely solicited feedback from each student, looking for ways to improve his version of the course, which I respect a lot.
Ultimately, I can recommend this course particularly for those who have good firearms safety and a decent grasp of marksmanship fundamentals. There was more than enough information passed on during the course to give most students an idea of where they stand skill-wise and where to focus their future training.