Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Defensive Firearms Coaches Course

So last week I invested some time and a bit of money doing something I have been wanting to do for almost 10 years. I attempted to become certified as a civilian firearms instructor. Not just an NRA instructor, although I accomplished that task as well, but an I.C.E Training Company Defensive Firearms Coach. I.C.E was founded by Rob Pincus. I have been following Rob, his training philosophy, videos and writings for quite awhile. His flagship Combat Focus Shooting program from what I have heard and read is a very worthwhile course to attend. With that in mind I registered for the Defensive Firearms Coaches (DFC) course. This would be my first step toward my eventual goal of becoming a Combat Focus Shooting instructor.

As an I.C.E. DFC I would be qualified to teach the company's Fundamentals of Home Defense Handgun (FHDH) and the Fundamentals of Concealed Carry (FOCC) courses. DFC itself is 3 days long, emphasis on the long. You hit the ground running from day one as the instructors tried to fit 25 lbs of knowledge into a 5lb bag of brains cells. It was sink or swim. This course was a semi private course contracted at a remote location in Iowa by Ernie,my friend and the owner of Cedar Valley Outfitters . Ernie is huge on training responsible gun owners and by contracting this course he figures he was making an investment in the future. There were 8 of us students and an additional 3 former students that were already certified but back for a refresher. The instructors were Jamie Onion, who co-created the DFC course with Rob Pincus and Michael J Anderson. There was many years of firearms experience in that classroom, from both instructors and students.

Day One started at 0800 and as all the students filed into the cabin/classroom, where we would be the next three days, as is normal we all picked seats around the room. This was a very non conventional classroom, literally a living room with a white board in the middle. I took a seat at the kitchen table that would be my desk and opened the black spiral notebook that would become my personal book of knowledge. DFC has no textbook, no handouts other than a suggested course outline. If  was going to gather any information I would have to do it the old fashioned way and work for it. Day One was jammed packed with information on safety and risk versus benefit. Physical comfort,intellectual comfort,competency,application of skill,effectiveness vs efficiency,plausibility principle, knowledge,communication,psychology,desire,ability, types of defensive handguns,ammunition,storage and security. From the beginning the instruction was modular,meaning non linear. So if a question was asked the instructors would move to another relevant subject without pause and then circle back to the original topic. This was confusing to some but I enjoyed it as it mitigated the constant "I will cover that later or the I will get back with you." The instructors made it clear from the first interaction with us students that the "I don't know but I will find out" answer was bullshit and would not be used. They held us as students accountable for the information presented but they certainly held themselves to the same standard. No notes were used in instruction and not once during the three days of training did I see either instructor unable to answer a question to the satisfaction of the student. In fact after a lengthy question and answer period, one of my fellow students muttered "They sure know their shit." We as students were also expected to "know our shit". Barely an hour into the instruction we started "teachbacks" of the material we had just went over. Even though I have instructed on the podium in the military and in the classroom as a civilian, I won't lie and try to pretend my heart wasn't pounding and palms sweaty the first time I got up and expounded on why we have firearms, consistency and choices of caliber for self defense. I started to enjoy the teaching after that first iteration however. I have always liked teaching, and firearms. I also like the no nonsense evaluations Once a student was off track or started to stammer and reach for words they heard "Sit Down, Try again." At the end of day one we went to our lodging with a teachback assignment for the morning. My brain was on fire.

Day two dawned clear and cold but the weather man said it would warm up and the snow would start to melt. This was good news because after the morning teachback we would be taking it to the range for the balance of the day. Range work included The Warrior Expert Theory, 5 Fundamentals and Tactics for home defense, proper range safety brief,range setup, Extend,touch, press drill,The Balance of Speed and Precision drill, sight alignment/sight picture,volume of fire concept, and the critical incident reload. Since we were both taking and learning how to teach the FHDH course, we alternated on the range between receiving instruction and giving instruction under the watchful eye of our instructors. All the while being evaluated on our effectiveness,knowledge and technique. Day two ended with a live fire defensive handgun in the home scenario where we acted as student and instructor for each iteration. Day two concluded the portion of instruction on FHDH and we were sent back to the RON site with another teachback assignment for the morning.

Day three started once again with teachbacks and then we moved into the Fundamentals of Concealed Carry curriculum. The initial part of this class was the same as FDHD so we didn't dwell on past material. We covered holster selection, the definition of a Dynamic Critical Incident, carry positions,awareness,avoidance,deescalation,should versus could,counter ambush methodology and alternative force options. Then we moved to the range where we went over the startle response and the bodies natural reaction to ambush. Along with the same drills as the day before we both received and taught drills on presentation from the holster and multiple target engagement. We finished up the range with discussion on distractions in a public environment,contacting police and what to do when police arrive. Once again the final bullets were sent flying down range on a realistic Dynamic Critical Incident scenario where we had to act as both student and instructor. Once all the instruction was done the climax to the course was a 50 question essay test on all the knowledge we had learned over the past three days. The standard was 80% and no time was alotted for study. You either knew it or you didn't. Once the tests were completed we did a debrief and were told our results on whether we were certified or not would be emailed to us the following week. On the drive home my friend CJ and myself had our own little debrief on the past few days events.

Its been several days since the course ended and I have had time to decompress. I found out today that I had in fact done well enough to be certified as a DFC instructor. It is amazing how much I did learn and how much I have retained from those 3 days. However I know if you don't use it you lose it and I am anxious to start teaching some courses to some new defensive handgun owners. This was just the first step in a long journey. I am attending the Combat Focus Shooting Course in June as a student and as I said hope to eventually be teaching the course myself. I think I have the background, attitude and mental ability to be successful but time is playing a factor. I might have about 10-15 years where I can be an efficient,effective instructor before I am overtaken by events. Overall I really enjoyed DFC and I am fired up to move down the path to CFS instructorhood.