Results 1 to 5 of 5

Thread: Aug 2020 Gunsite #350 Intermediate Defensive Pistol - Pistol Mounted Optics specific

  1. #1
    Site Supporter Erick Gelhaus's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    The Wasatch Front

    Aug 2020 Gunsite #350 Intermediate Defensive Pistol - Pistol Mounted Optics specific

    This was a write-up from a student in the August 2020 #350 Intermediate Defensive Pistol (Pistol Mounted Optics specific) class. It's shared with his permission as I don't often see Gunsite classes AAR'd. When he sent it, he described this as his class notes and thoughts.

    Gunsite 350 RD – Take-aways


    Here are my observations on the class. These notes are for my own record-keeping as much as they are a report to the school. Bottom line: It was a very positive experience.

    Let’s drill down.

    To be successful with a red-dot pistol, one must learn to shoot with both eyes open. That’s a good idea in any case (because you see more of the world around you), but it is essential for a red-dot handgun.

    The biggest hurdle is to acquire the dot decisively during the presentation. This requires modification of Step 5, (“Look”).

    From “Smack”, one has three options:

    1. Drive the knuckle of the middle finger of the dominant hand towards the target;
    2. Bring the back of the slide directly up to the nose and press outwards, as if the gun is on a “rail”;
    3. Deliver a more pronounced upward “Smack” that drives the gun up into your field of view.

    When you do this correctly, the dot “appears” in the viewing screen, dropping in from the top. I found that bringing the slide up to my face early on was the most effective for me. By using both eyes I soon acquired the dot regularly.

    I realized that for iron sighted guns, I’ve been tipping the muzzle slightly upwards so as to pick up the front sight sooner. This is opposite for a red-dot. Instead one cants the gun slightly downward (or LEVEL), which seems to work well.

    Once one has acquired the dot, it’s a matter of pressing the trigger without disturbing the sight picture – same as always.

    Erick made a point of saying, “Present the handgun and let the dot APPEAR in the viewing screen.” I’ll be pondering that Zen “Koan” for some time.

    BIG CHANGE: Instead of focusing on the dot, one focuses on the target and uses the red-dot as a “rear sight”. This is completely alien to prior techniques, and takes some getting used to. Tactically, this makes a great deal of sense because in conflict, you’re probably going to be looking at the threat anyway. So, focusing on the target makes a great deal of sense – if it is heretical(!). Witness how much work it takes to get an iron-sight equipped student to focus on the front sight, NOT the target. All that goes away with the red-dot.

    Supposition: If one were originally taught to shoot on a red-dot gun, I expect it would be much harder to learn to transition to iron sights. I can’t prove it, but it’s an intriguing thought. Going from irons to red-dot isn’t really that much of a journey.

    Parallax Exercise: At pistol ranges parallax error is insignificant. To illustrate this, we present the handgun, and move the dot to each corner of the sight while centering the dot on the target. All shots go where they need to.

    Trigger Exercise: For striker-fired pistols (only) Insert a cable tie into the chamber, letting it protrude from the muzzle. Bring the slide into battery (it won’t go all the way, but it frees up the trigger). Now, point in (a head-shot at 3 yards is fine), and work the trigger as quickly as you can. Observe how the dot moves. Don’t do that.

    Live Fire Trigger Exercise: At three yards, point in at the dirt berm (or a plain piece of paper) and run the trigger as fast as you can for 5-6 shots. Observe the dot, NOT your target. See how dot moves. Don’t do that.

    Strive to keep the dot on the target: Once you can do this while managing the trigger, you will do well. Accept any “wobble” in your sight picture and drive on.

    Eyes Open Exercise: Put a piece of tape over the frame of the red-dot in FRONT of the sight. Present the handgun and fire a string holding center. Your non-dominant eye will “take over” and watch the target while your dominant eye sees the dot. Your brain collates the two images. This works well.

    Watch the Target Exercise: Erick printed out two (rather terrible) poems on large pieces of paper that he affixed to the target. We were asked to read the poems at three yards and put a round through each “O” or “o” in the poem. This forced us to watch the target and remember the offset distance between the dot and the muzzle. A good trick.

    What if the dot goes down? A useful question indeed. At three yards, with a Trijicon RMR, you put the “horns” of the dot on the target’s shoulders and go to work. With other sighting systems, you find out where to hold using the frame of the optic or the entire field of view as a “ghost-ring” rear sight. I found that just imagining where the dot would be worked well enough. Personally, I would not use this technique beyond ten yards.

    Note to self: Using standard suppressor-height sights created a cluttered viewing screen for me. So, for the class I had no iron sights at all. I will obtain a set of iron sights that rest in the lower third of the viewing screen. Apparently, no one offers this setup commercially at this time. You have to have a set of blank suppressor-height sights milled down. Instructor Ed Head thinks backup iron sights aren’t necessary at all. I’m not ready to go there yet.

    All the basics still apply: Verlin Rector pointed out that my Weaver stance had “collapsed” with my dominant hand creeping back towards my face. This instability cost me a lot of dropped shots. Don’t do that.

    That awful Glock-ish trigger: I had an Apex tactical trigger on my Grey Ghost Precision Compact pistol. For the first few days I had a 2lb Striker Spring installed. This resulted in failures to ignite, and I soon changed it out for a 4lb Striker Spring, which improved things. This setup proved almost ideal with a crisp break and fairly crisp reset, but it was still nothing like my beloved single-action 1911 trigger.

    This was brought home to me when my gun went down on Day 2 (more on that later). Instructor Erick Gelhaus kindly offered me his Glock 19X with a Leupold sight on it. That trigger was truly awful (even though it was a ROBAR-something trigger), and it set me back.

    However, any trigger can be managed. You just have to suck it up and concentrate on a surprise break. This was another fundamental that I had to revisit.

    Failure report: On day two my dot went away early in the morning. This was because one of the two screws holding the red-dot onto the slide had turned out, despite having been tightened the night before. I will now carry Loctite and spare screws in my shooting bag.

    Those screws are Socket Flat Countersunk Head Cap Screws #6-32 X 3/8” (a specification that you will find NOWHERE in the Trijicon documentation on the RMR sight). Mike Moore figured it out. You need a 5/64” Allen wrench to turn the screws in. I already carry both SAE and metric Allen wrenches in my shooting back.

    I had a spare RMR on my SCAR 17S (which just happened to be with me) so I swapped in one of those screws. However, on the SCAR, the mounting screws are the same pitch and thread, but ½” long. When installed on the handgun, it retarded the slide’s travel. That’s when I accepted Erick’s loaner gun.

    That night it came to me: The screw must be the culprit! This was borne out by the GGP manual, which tells you NOT to use Trijicon screws provided (1/2”) but to use the ones that they provide (3/8”). Well, duh. Mike Moore shortened the 1/2” screw and installed it. That solved the problem and my gun ran the rest of the week.

    Part of the exercise was to run the Grey Ghost Precision Compact pistol HARD. Nothing breaks gear like a Gunsite class.

    I have to say that the GGP Compact is a good pistol. Is it worth $1,500? I’m not sure about that. But according to article #42 in Recoil Magazine (where I learned about GGP), they say that Grey Ghost has re-engineered the slide to stay in battery longer during ignition, which enhances accuracy. The GGP certainly shot better than I can. The Apex trigger was a great add-on.

    In the heat of the moment, my tendency is to clear malfunctions crisply and drive on, but I did have more than the rest of the class (perhaps). Most of these were due to failure to ignite and THAT pointed at the 2lb Striker Spring. As above, when I swapped out for a 4lb Striker Spring those malfunctions went almost completely away. I had only one malfunction that was due to ammo (reversed primer). Yes, I handload. Yes, it happens.

    I also noticed that the Magpul 15-round mags got dirty during the class and the followers stuck in the body. This caused poor feeding. The evidence was turning the mags upside down, whereupon a shower of live rounds obeyed the law of gravity. I have seen this with G21 mags (from Glock), but not until many more duty cycles. So, if you’re using Magpul mags, clean them.

    Holsters: The GGP is built on a GEN 3 style Polymer80 frame. Accordingly, holsters are difficult to find, and I had to follow a link from to holster makers that can provide Kydex holsters for it. I settled on, out of Texas. This maker does heat-formed Kydex (not injection molded, like current Blade-Tech offerings), and they do have some variance in execution. I found my Dremel tool invaluable for getting the holsters just as I wanted them. In the end I used the injection molded 2-mag carriers from Blade-Tech. They make it far easier to index on the mag for a reload.

    Long Range Accuracy: The red-dot has a distinct advantage when used at distance. It delivers a much cleaner sight picture and with good trigger management one can do better than with iron sights. I saw several very good shots at distance. For example, we shot an elimination at 15/25/35/50 yards weak hand only. Two of the class (not me) made that shot. I was shaking too much to advance beyond 25 yards on that drill. So, hold better, Bob.

    The Red-Dot DOES work: I expected to struggle a lot more with the red-dot than I did. I was pleasantly surprised that on Days Two and Three I was seeing the dot almost every time on my presentation. Once I concentrated on the basics, I started shooting much better.

    Would I Carry This Setup Out In The Wide World? Yes, but not until I have appropriate backup-iron sights.

    GREAT instructors: Erick Gelhaus has made himself a subject-matter expert, as he tends to do. He takes no credit for the content of this course and freely attributes his sources. That said, he did an excellent job of collating the POI for this course, which is still evolving. He is also able to articulate every aspect of his presentation (as he also tends to do). He has a quick wit, which entertains as he teaches. Thanks, Erick!

    Coaches Clint Achziger and Verlin Rector also did a great job. Both bring decades of experience to the table. Clint in particular has been carrying a red-dot-equipped gun on duty for some time. Verlin is incredibly supportive, with a light touch, but he doesn’t miss anything. It was he who continually reminded me to extend into a full Weaver, and that helped me a great deal.
    Clint gave me a lot of new information in the indoor simulators. He doesn’t miss ANYTHING, and was able to give me a good “tune-up” during the indoor exercises.

    I think the Instructors were top-flight all around. It would be good to have this team on every RD-based class (though that may be wishful thinking).

    What Would I Change In The POI? It would be a good idea to identify earlier on just how many people are inexperienced in red-dot shooting and how many are already familiar with the system, and pace the class accordingly. I think that most of us were fairly new to the system, and needed more time just shooting without time pressure.

    Erick recognized this on Day 3, and we did spend time using the turning targets not for time, but as our stimulus to begin the presentation. That helped me a great deal, because with a new trigger AND a new sighting system I was really struggling to make time. Erick also de-emphasized the movement part of the drills. That was a blessing, because to impose a strict 350 regimen (turning targets for time WITH movement) on those who are working with a new sighting system sets the student up for failure. I wasn’t the only one not getting my shots off in these drills. Thanks for modifying things just a bit, Erick.

    I have attended many 350 classes at this point, so my mileage does vary. If it were up to me, I’d bring turning targets for time in much later in the week, and I’d also introduce movement later as well, perhaps even on Day 4. We have enough challenges just with the new sighting system. I also had a new platform to contend with. I’m almost done whining about that.

    Would I Take This Class Again? YES, emphatically. I would like to return with more time on the gun to see if I can improve my performance on the square range. This class was in many ways a “wake-up” call, and I need to attend to the basics before I return.

    That said, I feel comfortable with my performance off the square range. I seemed to do well in all the simulators, and I did NOT shoot a non-threat, which is a big deal for me. Being a 1911 shooter I’m very conscious of ammo-management and I surprised myself by NOT having to do an emergency reload all week. My stance was good, and I think my turns were OK. My gun-handling skills seem to remain in place, which was a real advantage while I worked with the new platform and sighting system.

    Conclusion: THANKS to Gunsite for offering this class. The information was collated and presented perfectly. It was all there for the student to absorb as best as he could. I wanted a comprehensive overview of this topic and I got it. There will be more and more people who elect to use the red-dot system, and I think that 350RD deserves a permanent place in Gunsite’s offerings. I can envision a 499RD sometime in the future.

    For now, I hope Erick will continue to fine-tune his offerings in this area. I think that he succeeded in integrating the use of the red-dot sight into the doctrine (which was his stated intention all along). Well done, Gunsite.


    Bob S

    I won’t argue with Bob’s perceptions, thoughts; that doesn’t mean I agree with all of them though.

    One counter I’ll offer – I was aware most of the class was not experienced with PMOs. It was considered when timed exposures came into play. In the class, and going forward, I’ll use the turning targets as a stimulus for a response only longer than I did initially.

    And, a second counter, the trigger on my loaner Glock isn’t bad.

  2. #2
    Site Supporter
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    I didn't realize you were RM/PI. Congratulations. Quite an accomplishment!


  3. #3
    Site Supporter Erick Gelhaus's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    The Wasatch Front
    Quote Originally Posted by UNM1136 View Post
    I didn't realize you were RM/PI. Congratulations. Quite an accomplishment!

    Thank you sir. Finished the apprentice program & came on staff in early '01. Been an RM for about ten years.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2016
    Desert Southwest
    That was a valuable read. Thank you.

  5. #5
    Site Supporter Clark Jackson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2018
    Thank you for sharing. Enjoyed the read.
    "True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost." -Arthur Ashe

User Tag List

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts