While at SHOT Show back in January, we had the opportunity to meet a lot of different folks, including numerous instructors. Over and over we kept running into the guys from Combat Focus Shooting (CFS) everywhere we went. There was literally a herd of them. If you aren’t familiar with CFS, it is the core program of I.C.E. Training and the brainchild of Rob Pincus. He has CFS certified instructors literally across the country. I was recently able to attend the Fundamentals of Combat Focus Shooting class that was held at Southington Law Enforcement Facility in Garrettsville, OH.
The instructor for this class was Paul Carlson. Paul is a NRA instructor, a certified Combat Focus Shooting instructor, as well as an I.C.E. Training Defensive Firearms Coach. He has been an instructor since 2001, and his previous experience of 13 years as a math and science teacher are evident in his training curriculum. His teaching style with his students is very interactive and very personal. I have gotten to know Paul over the last 6 months since SHOT quite well, but his interaction with the other students was as if he knew them on that same personal level. Aside from this course, he also teaches Intro to Defensive Handguns, CHL classes, a more in-depth 2-Day Combat Focus Shooting class, and also Combat Focus Carbine class. Paul also does a podcast available on iTunes and has numerous SSA videos on YouTube.
The Fundamentals of Combat Focus Shooting as taught by Safety Solutions Academy is an 8-hour course. The CFS program is an intuitive shooting program that focuses on getting the student to maintain maximum efficiency in a dynamic critical incident. It covers the basics of intuitive defensive shooting, primarily focusing on improving combat accuracy through a balance of speed and precision. That is something that I was pleasantly surprised to hear. Not about shooting tight groups, but effectively putting rounds on target to stop a threat… center mass.
The day started out with a safety briefing, followed with a detailed but easy to understand explanation by Paul on the background of Combat Focus Shooting. He thoroughly explained the methodology and something he focused on throughout the day…. the ‘why’. As it so happens, I am a person that seems to always ask the ‘why’ when something is explained to me. It helps me process “I do this because of THIS”. This is hugely beneficial especially in something like firearms training, when repetition is key. If I understand why it is that I am doing what I am doing, it helps me focus on the minute details that can affect your shot. In a dynamic critical incident, things can go bad in a split second and your reaction needs to be instinctual.
As mentioned above, CFS focuses on combat accuracy. For the first few sets of drills, we focused on not using the sights, however, focusing on form and proper procedure from recognition of the threat, to the draw, to the presentation, to the shot(s). Every drill included multiple shots, 2, 3, or 4 at a time. This also made it hard to keep a mental count of rounds and emphasized the importance of effective reloading. As luck would have it, words ringing in my ears were that of my good buddy Matt DeVito (shockingly, another CFS instructor) of Down Range Firearms Training… “DON’T LOOK AT YOUR RELOADS!” After a few drills, this wasn’t an issue as it became a natural motion and I didn’t give it much thought. As the drills continued, more and more focus was added to improve accuracy, while maintaining a comfortable speed to be combat effective. All the while, Paul was there with the ‘why’. He was shooting pics frequently and using the camera to identify a student’s weakness and/or errors, and not just correcting them with proper technique, but again, reinforcing the ‘why’.
One of the things that Combat Focus Training stresses is lateral movement. This was something new to me, as most of my shooting is done in a stall. This was compounded by frequently having to do reloads (yes, without looking) as you moved laterally and continued moving to resume fire. This took a little getting used to, but after a while through repetition, became a natural movement even when engaging multiple targets.
The other drill most folks (myself included) don’t practice as much as needed is malfunction clearing. As luck would have it, I am still in the process of breaking in a new Glock and I had a few malfunctions, which we eventually attributed to the mags. Once they were taken apart and cleaned out in a reloading break, they worked fine. However, it was very good practice when I am expecting a BANG and get a click and that instantly forced the mind into non-diagnostic linear malfunction clearing mode. That sounds like a mouthful, but when you again understood the ‘why’, the process was a natural progression of what’s wrong and how to quickly fix it. That is something you definitely want to be instinctive in a high-stress situation.
At the end of the day, the final drills were an accumulation of all that we had learned being used at once. After 8 hours and 500 rounds of trigger pulling, it definitely came together and not only became more natural, but intuitive.
Besides the obvious fact that I need to shoot and train more, the biggest thing that I took away from Paul’s class is the mindset of balance and precision. My of my prior experience was shooting at a stationary target in a stall trying to stack bullets on top of each other. Obviously this does not correlate well to real world shooting and the introduction of lateral movement as well as that mindset of doing without thinking is something I will be more focused on and will continue to practice.
If you have never taken a class or are a seasoned shooter, Paul at Safety Solutions Academy definitely offers a great foundation to build or hone your skillset. I look forward to training with him again soon. Check out Safety Solutions Academy on the web, or you can connect with Safety Solutions Academy on Facebook.