Robert Vogel does not need much introduction—his bio http://www.vogeldynamics.com/bio/) and accomplishments (http://www.vogeldynamics.com/accomplishments/) speak for themselves. As with many other world class shooters, Bob is down to earth, humble, practical, and easily approachable. This class at Chabot Gun Range, in the hills above Oakland, CA, started with a 2 hour discussion on his approach to shooting based on his competition, LE, and hunting experiences.
He went over equipment first. At this time, Vogel shoots primarily Glocks for competition, LE duty, and CCW. At the class, he was shooting a G34 with Warren Sevigny competition sights using a wide notch rear aperture and a red fiberoptic front (he replaces the fiberoptic rod about every 3 mo). Interestingly, he uses fiberoptic front sights on all his pistols--competition, LE duty, and CCW. He feels they work just as well for him as tritium sights and reports never having any problems with breakage or fiber loss, but he does install them correctly. In addition, the Warren model front sight he is using provides more retention and protection than many other fiberoptic front sight bases. Vogel generally runs a “-“ connector, a bit lighter firing pin safety plunger spring, along with a bit heavier trigger spring. He discussed needing to maintain Glocks and uses the following regimen with his G34: new recoil spring 1-2 times per year (he uses a non-captured flat wire 11 lbs ISMI recoil spring for a flatter recoil impulse), new mag release spring 1-4 times per year, and periodic replacement of the trigger return spring and slide stop spring. He mentioned the importance of keeping magazines free of debris and recommended the Arrendondo brush (http://www.arredondoaccessorie...=fc25l4901jitls&gid=). He used a Safariland 5189 holster and 032 belt. For LE duty, he runs a Glock 35 with a weapon mounted light. In addition, he uses a hand-held light in a neck index for searching and target ID. He is also rarely without a J-frame (340PD) in his pocket. He mentioned that it is OK to shoot matches using duty or CCW gear, but that at higher levels of USPSA/IPSC or IDPA, specialized equipment was required to be competitive.
In Vogel’s opinion, the most fundamental key to good shooting is superb trigger control. This is even more important to him than sight alignment. Good trigger control is developed and mastered through dry fire. It is important to maintain the same firm grip used in live fire during dry fire sessions; he feels most shooters are far too lax with their grip when dry firing. Bob reports dry firing 8-10 times for each of the 20,000 rounds of live fire practice he averages each year. He uses 1/3 scale targets when dry firing, but does NOT use a timer.
A good grip is crucial for controlling the gun. Vogel wants as high a grip as possible on the pistol--preferably a pistol with a low bore-axis. He squeezes/pinches the pistol with his strong hand, not just grabbing it, and really gets his knuckles hard up against the underside of the trigger guard. Even more important than the strong hand grip, he emphasizes that the support hand grip is the key to fully controlling the pistol. Vogel’s support hand technique is different than anyone I have trained with. He uses the standard thumbs forward position, but places the support hand as far forward and as high up on the pistol as possible. His support hand is gripping harder than his strong hand. In addition, he is applying a strong opposing torque toward the frame with each hand. I was shocked at how much force he was applying against the pistol--he commented that he grips almost to the point where his hands begin to shake. As a result of these factors, he does not subscribe to the typical emphasis on a 360 degree wrap around with the weak hand. In fact, just the base of the support hand thumb is in contact with frame/upper pistol grip of the pistol near the slide, resulting in a gap existing between the rest of the support hand and the lower half of the pistol butt. He mentioned that this aggressive hand positioning sometimes presses against the slide release and prevents the slide from locking back on the last shot; a trade-off he is willing to accept for the faster flatter shooting this technique offers him. In order to improve his hand strength, Vogel uses the Captain’s of Crush hand grippers (http://www.ironmind.com/ironmi...captainsofcrush.html). He recommended starting with the #1 and working up to #3. He emphasized that these are not casual workouts, but that when done correctly, they are intense and uncomfortable.
In his opinion, lower body position is not critical to shoot effectively, but for maximum recoil control a good upper body stance is imperative. Vogel suggests that the pistol, hands, forearms, and shoulders be level and in a straight line. When done correctly, the support side arm is a bit higher than the strong side, the head is slightly down, and the shoulders are rolled forward.
After the talk, we moved on out to the range for live fire. Vogel first demonstrated every drill, stage, and test that was fired prior to the students performing them. A couple of times he made errors and used those as teachable moments. Many of the drills were performed using 6 shots. Vogel states that running the gun that many times forces the shooter to do a more diligent job controlling it compared to just firing 2 shots.
The first event was firing 6 shots into the A-zone at 15 yards during slow fire, then within 7 sec, and finally with a 3.5 second time limit.
Vogel discussed that he does NOT have a full grip as he begins the draw, but firms it up as the gun comes out of the holster and forcefully meets the weak hand very early in the draw. He then presses the pistol out, picking up the sights as it moves about half-way out to full extension. He wants to be on the trigger early, as soon as the pistol is pointed at the target. He stressed the need for extensive dry fire to master the draw. Bob also demonstrated drawing his J-frame from the pocket; watching him pocket draw his J-frame and hit in 0.57 sec was quite impressive!
Next we shot Bill Drills freestyle at 7, 15, and 25 yards. The bench marks Vogel is shooting for is under 2 sec at 7 yds, under 2.5 sec at 15 yds, and under 3 sec at 25 yds. Vogel emphasized that each shooter should fire at their natural pace with the goal being to increase that natural speed with practice. This was followed by SHO and WHO Bill Drills at 7 yards. When shooting one handed, Vogel blades into the target, bringing his shooting shoulder forward, locking the arm out, resting his chin against his shoulder, and keeping the gun as vertical as possible (he noted a slight pistol cant WHO is OK).
Multiple runs through a D2R2R2 drill at 7 yds were performed to work on reloading. Vogel uses a fairly standard reloading technique. He gets to the mag release with his strong thumb as early as possible, while the pistol is still vertical; he mentioned that some individuals might need to use the weak hand thumb to release the mag. Simultaneously his support hand is quickly moving to the mag pouch. He draws his arm back to a consistent position against his chest, pistol high in front of his face, with the butt pointed towards mag pouch. He emphasized that a slight pause is necessary just prior to insertion of the mag into the pistol to prevent costly errors. He uses his strong hand thumb to disengage the slide release whenever possible, as it is faster than other techniques. He stated that not everyone can do this, so in those situations folks could use the weak side thumb to drop the slide. Of note, he prefers the older Glocks with the front strap dimple, as it aids his control during mag insertion. He demonstrated that he is faster with a retention reload rather than a tac reload. Reload times should be about the same as the draw time.
Next a drill firing 5 shots to the body followed by an immediate transition to 5 shots into the head was conducted. Vogel wants transition times to be as close to a split time as possible. Bob stressed that people can only shoot accurately as fast as they can see and call their shots. Shooters must balance accuracy and speed by seeing just what is necessary to make the shot--this is vastly different for a close shot at 3 yds versus a longer shot at 50 yds. Bob emphasized being sure to have a sight picture for each shot (controlled pairs) and cautioned against just shooting hammers. Vogel also reminded us that to get a true and accurate measure of skill level, shooters need to look at the average of multiple runs and not just focus on the best run. Consistency is paramount.
Next, we ran a drill emphasizing shooting on the move in both right and left lateral directions while engaging five targets arrayed to the front. Regrettably, no steel targets were available at this range, so the class was delayed quite a bit due to constant taping up of the targets. Thankfully all the shooters, as well as Bob, helped to tape.
Finally an unusual drill was shot that used a dice to determine what order the six targets would be engaged. The shooter stands facing 6 targets. On the timer, the shooter drops a large dice on the ground. Whatever number comes up is the starting point; if the shooter roles a 5, they begin by shooting 5 rounds on target five, 6 rounds on target six, then 1 round on target one, etc… until all 6 targets are engaged. This drill forced shooters to be thinking and planning, while simultaneously shooting.
Unfortunately, due to range restrictions, night shooting was not allowed. For the first day, I fired 358 rounds.
Day two began with another lecture--this one focusing on the mental aspects of shooting successfully. Vogel recommended material from Lanny Bassham’s “With Winning in Mind” (http://www.amazon.com/Winning-...ny+bassham%5B/url%5D) and Saul Kirsch’s “Thinking Practical Shooting” (http://www.amazon.com/Thinking...l+shooting%5B/url%5D).
Out on the range, we started with a walk-back drill. 3 shots were fired within 5 sec starting at 3 yards and moving back to 25 yards, in 2 yard increments. Bob stated that no student had ever successfully shot all A-zone hits on this drill—that is until this class.
Next he ran us through the new state of Ohio 25 round LE qualification test. To pass, 20 of 25 shots must hit the A, C, or head zone within the required time limits for the officer to qualify.
4 ft: D3 from retention position in 5 sec
9 ft: 2 body/1 head from holster in 6 sec
12 ft: 4 shots SHO from holster in 8 sec
12 ft: 4 shots WHO from ready in 7 sec
20 ft: D3R3 slide lock reload from holster in 12 sec
30 ft: D3 in 8 sec
50 ft: D2 in 8 sec
This qualification test was absurdly easy. The class performed the test again using the same time standards, but at double the distance--again no problems. I suspect that even at double the distance, the time standards could be cut in half and the test would still be easily manageable…
The classic El Presidente at 10 yards was on the menu next. Vogel demonstrated that starting with the feet close together and rapidly turning to the strong side was the fastest way to engage the targets. He shot left to right, reloaded, and re-engaged left to right. He did not feel there was any speed advantage shooting from right to left after the reload, as is advocated by some trainers. He mentioned that 25-30 years ago only top shooters could perform a sub 10 sec El Prez; now one needs to consistently run under 5 sec to be competitive. The 6.60 sec El Prez I shot seemed pathetically slow compared to the 4.61 sec run Bob demonstrated during this portion of the class.
A fun serpentine zig-zag SOM drill conducted while weaving between 4 vertical barriers and placing 18 shots on two targets was up next. Once again the lack of steel slowed the class down. Using the same barriers and targets, a 16 shot barrier drill that requiring hard leans to both sides of each of 4 barriers was performed.
After that, a 28 shot, three station stage was run. In addition to multiple hostage/no shoots partially covering the targets, this stage also included hard leans, SOM, low ports and narrow ports.
Another drill involving dice was run next, although this time there were two dice and an array of 12 targets that had to be engaged depending on how the dice rolled. On the buzzer, the shooter dropped the 2 large dice. The two numbers that came up, as well as the sum of the two numbers were the three targets that were NOT shot during this drill. If a double was rolled, then the shooter did not shoot the number that was rolled, the sum of the two numbers, as well as a third target of their choice--typically the end target of the array. This required quick thinking and mental processing while simultaneously drawing and shooting.
After that we got to hose 12 targets with 1 shot to each body followed by 1 shot to each head. We than repeated the same drill, but this time shot 2 to each body, then one to each head.
Bob mentioned that he likes to finish a class with a test where shooters start with six rounds in the pistol, fire 2 shots at each of three targets, perform a slide lock reload, and then fire one shot to the head of a target. All A-zone hits are required and the fastest time wins. Unfortunately we did not get to run this event, due to time constraints.
Note that when clearing his pistol, Bob always racks the slide at least 2-3 times to ensure that no rounds from a magazine left in the pistol get chambered and missed.
I expended 321 rounds on the second day of the class, for a grand total of 679 rounds for the course.
This is the fourth event I have taken at Chabot. Alas, this class yet again highlighted the limitations of the facility, including lack of steel targets, inability to have targets arrayed at varying distances, no night shooting, only square range shooting (ie. only straight ahead target engagement), no shoot house capability, etc... Not to mention the distraction of USCG folks blasting away with two M240’s on the range next to us; although why someone would want to run through thousands of rounds of tripod mounted 7.62 mm belt fed on a 25 yd pistol range was a bit perplexing…
A variety of shooters of different skills were present including competitive, LE, CCW, and regular civilian recreational shooters. Interestingly, along with her LE officer husband, a female with a pronounced English accent and 26 years in law enforcement was among the top shooters in the class. Glocks were the most prevalent pistols, but a couple of HK’s, an M&P, a 1911, and an XDM that broke early on the first day were also in action. One shooter caught a squib round of Winchester white box 115 gr FMJ (Q4172) in the chamber of his G34; that lot of WWB ammo also had multiple light primer strikes/failures to fire when used in several different pistols.
The G19 with RMR06 in a Unity ATOM mount I used ran reasonably well, although I had a strange mid-string random failure to feed on each day. I wore a U.S. Armor Enforcer Classic LIIIa concealed vest during the class and had no issues with it while shooting any of the drills. While attempting to learn Vogel’s very appealing, yet aggressive grip style on the first day of class, I managed to break the Grip Force Adaptor I had on my pistol. This is the first time I have seen a GFA fail. I shot the rest of the class without the GFA; I’ll likely not replace the GFA on my pistol, as it did not seem useful when using the Vogel grip technique. The Vogel grip style definitely worked for me and is something I plan on incorporating into my shooting from now on.
Robert Vogel is a true gentleman and positive role model for developing shooters--highly approachable, without any juvenile antics or a prima donna ego interfering with his instruction. If you are looking solely to improve your ability to fight with a pistol, then training with Pat McNamara, Kyle Defoor, or Paul Howe might be appropriate. If you want pure LE pistol shooting and tactics training, then a HiTS course with Wayne Dobbs/Darryl Bolke or an ITTS class with Scotty Reitz is probably in order. Although this class with Robert Vogel emphasized practical competitive shooting, much like Todd Green’s courses, training with Bob would strongly benefit ANY intermediate or advanced shooter and can be highly recommended! I learned more about grip and pistol control in this class than in any training I have received in the past 25 years of shooting. I’ll definitely train with Bob Vogel again if the opportunity arises--ANY serious shooter would have to be daft not to want to learn as much as possible from a World Champion competitor as appealing, gracious, and generous as Bob Vogel.