The Second Time Around
The weekend of May 23-24, 2015 I once again had the distinct pleasure to train with Mike Pannone of CTT Solutions. I took the Covert Carry course once again which is a course specifically designed how to manipulate a firearm in a defensive use completely from concealment. It is one that I can’t stress enough for anyone who carries a firearm concealed on a daily basis how important this is. This is something that I truly believe is missing in many defensive pistol courses that concealment is not required as that is how the vast majority of us carry. My first run through of this class was an eye opener, and I can honestly say that the second time around was even better than the first. It was with this in mind that we brought him down to Shootlogic to give some local shooters an easier opportunity to learn from him.
Like most weekend classes we began with a very basic fundamental exam. This was done to make sure each student was safe, and give Mike a chance to evaluate skill level. The second approach to this is that there is no advance shooting; there are only the fundamentals. As we progressed through day one it was apparent that Mike looks at things differently regarding to how the body moves and works. We did this on day one so that we could continue to build on this foundation being laid. While familiar with this concept, I paid particular attention this time around because the instruction not only made sense, but I wanted to truly learn and put into practice the lessons we were receiving. I came to this class fully prepared to “take one step back to take two steps forward.” I’m looking forward to taking the two steps forward.
The biggest reason that the second time around was better is that Mike has clearly refined his curriculum by continuing to seek out instruction himself and passing on that new knowledge to fellow shooters. As of this year Mike earned his Master rating in several USPSA divisions and spoke at length of his work and the process involved to achieve such a respectable rank. Mike did this by seeking out and training with other competitive shooters that he was ranked behind and that also had a discerning eye for critiquing. I was able to tell that Mike brought some of their techniques into the curriculum and he was not only more knowledgeable about shooting, but more passionate about shooting and teaching. That passion showed throughout the weekend and was infectious to the student looking to learn to improve. It was a refreshing and yet humbling experience to have a teacher of his caliber show that there is always something to learn, and also his desire to pass that new knowledge along. The approach he took this time was definitively more “academic” and his goal to really bring out the “little things” in the various students for a demonstrable improvement. This wasn’t just a shooting class, but a thinking class. We were expected to keep an open mind over both days as we progressed.
Not only did I learn new drills, but I learned how to better approach my own weaknesses…and boy do I still have a long way to go. One of the things that I have been trying to work on throughout my competitive endeavors is target transitions. Mike not only covered that in class but spoke at length with me about approaching the issue and how to think through my practice. This alone was a huge “light bulb” moment for me and I am thoroughly looking forward to putting the concept into practice. I’m very grateful to Mike for speaking with me on approaching this aspect of my shooting and he spared no advice with whoever had specific questions about their shooting. I think this speaks volumes of the caliber of the kind of teacher Mike is as he was not only approachable, but had a specific answer for those who asked, and he was enthusiastic about helping others improve! Sadly, too many “instructors” have a canned response to questions or don’t care if their students are working hard to improve. They run the gamut of “drills”, say goodbye and leave with no feedback for learning. Not Mike! He wanted us to ask and wanted us to leave no stone unturned. Questions were answered in a clear and intelligent manner without ever making the student feel small or dumb. This is the difference between a teacher and just an instructor. The more I train and learn the wider the gap I notice between the two; I specifically look for teachers now when looking to improve my shooting or mindset.
A common concept throughout both training days was how much time Mike has studied how the human body moves and works. While no stranger to reloads, Mike explained the reload in a way that literally made every student say, “how did I not think of that?” We were taught to embrace a simple philosophy of working with our bodies’ natural movements, and letting go of the techniques that ask us to work against ourselves. It was that simple, and set the tone of Mike’s philosophy regarding not fighting the body when manipulating the firearm or shooting. Many concepts that are still being taught do just that and waste our scarcest resource with anything…time. It’s time that we won’t have in a fight or at our next match.
As far as improvement, there was no dull moment as Mike effortlessly kept the class moving at a brisk pace. This is not a beginner or even intermediate course and I would recommend it to at least a slightly more experienced shooter. We were constantly challenged mentally as we would go through a block of instruction working on speed then immediately change gears and have to work on basic marksmanship. This is a mental challenge as it is tough to make yourself have to slow down to shoot a tight group after being throttle down. A perfect example of this is shooting at 7yds from concealment trying for a zone hits in sub 1.5seconds, then immediately moving back to 20yds to shoot 10 round B-8 targets for groups. This messed with many shooters minds at first but when the process was explained, and throughout the weekend all students were shooting faster more accurately it all made sense.
One of our favorite drills of the weekend was Mike’s “rabbit drill”. This is a competitive exercise where one shooter is the “rabbit”, and the other the “coyote”. The rabbit starts in a position and the coyote must mimic it. The rabbit can draw at any time, and the coyote can only take action once he sees the rabbit moving. The goal is for the coyote to get faster and beat the rabbit with a hit on target. Being an accuracy intensive class, only hits count so if the rabbit misses with a clear time advantage it gives the coyote time to make the shot. This can be done with either a one shot draw or a one shot, reload, one shot drill. What was made apparent is this is THE drill to do if a person is really looking to get faster in a hurry. It forces a person to be fast, but efficient. There is no room for fast and sloppy as a shirt can get caught in the draw, or hands may not be able to achieve a master grip. Pride was put on the line as some shooters were very evenly matched (which is actually a bonus for this drill).
Another thing I learned that I want to improve on is group shooting. While I by no means am terrible, I now know that is something that I really want to get better at. This class showed me that trigger control and consistent sight tracking as that is a skill that is overlooked while shooting groups at 25yds. It is something that I believe is sorely overlooked and something that I will no longer neglect. We shot enough groups to improve upon this concept during class, but to learn what our mistakes were while doing them. Were the students not pressing the trigger correctly? Was the front sight not being tracked correctly? Was there inconsistency in a master grip? This directly relates to Mike constantly changing the tempo of the class (remember the vexed students?). By switching things up, we could take a step back and analyze the “why” behind particular flaws in each shooter, particularly myself. Exposing this weakness was humbling, but motivating as I enjoy the new revelations of correction and putting that into practice. That’s why we train! I anticipate lots of wall drills in my future dry fire practice. Looking at the consistency of Mike’s groups and a couple of other students groups, this is something that needs improvement. I once again cannot wait to work on this challenge.
A big concept that I took from this class once again is looking at my practice from an academic point of view. Truly learning how to not only diagnose and identify weak areas, as that is the easy part, but being able to put in the work to improve upon them. It is the “know how of self correction”. Mike spoke extensively about his competitive experience and that it is the little things that separate the great from mediocre. Mike said, “The big things are easy to see, the little things are where you will win or lose, in a fight or sport shooting”. This is something that too many shooters overlook with the “good enough” mantra. I am not a fan of this low standard at all and sets me to seeing red when shooters want to “get better” then allow “good enough” to drive their thought process and thereby their practice. Mike doesn’t allow this is his classes or personal practice. It is this concept that beyond all of the shooting, one handed manipulations, and the 600(yes, that is 600) draws from concealment in two days that I took away the second time training with Mike Pannone. It takes hard work, with an “I can do better” attitude to see the next level of improvement, no gimmicks or special gear. I stepped away from the firing line more motivated than I have been in a long time to continue to train and practice in a long time. I look forward to the opportunity to train with Mike again. Let’s see what happens at my next match.