I planned to be in Richmond early in the evening Friday, to meet Tim and maybe Ashton, (if he got in early enough), for dinner. While both graciously take to time to mentor me in instructor/coaching chops a bit around my own training, I consider both friends and enjoy the time I spend with them. Tim fills more of the wise, been there done that, let me ease you into this with the minimum number of errors your dumb-ass could make. Where Ashton recognizes my smart-ass humor, and targets me for that gift with his own, brutally. Both are extremely knowledgeable in the realm of shooting; neither call themselves instructors, they are “coaches”; many more than I, have the opinion they are the best currently in the business.
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Why is 360* Performance different? Take two very accomplished coaches, who have had uncountable numbers of hours of instruction with the top names in the training community going back decades. These two will sit around coming up with ways to teach the things that we all have heard since we first picked up a gun. All the cliches like squeeze the trigger, align the sights, grip the gun, etc., but instead of simply using the phrasing, figure out how to physically show you, and make the words mean something concrete. First by demonstration, then by hand overlay, (letting the students feel what the words are attempting to convey, finally, through positive repetition with coaching to perfect and build in the skill. I believe this is going on my fifth or more visit with the T&A Show.
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Upon arrival at our hotel in Short Pump, I find not only is Ashton close, but my good friend and one of my favorite dangerous people, former Gunny Sgt. Nathan Carr was driving down from PA. Nate spent his entire career during GWAT, his last assignment when we first met a few years ago was minting new firearms instructors for The Marine Corps. All this guy has known since high school is fighting evil. While we are both there for serious learning, we keep each other in stitches outside of positively correcting and coaching each other.
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Most of their classes are going to attract a common following, it isn’t always easy for a first-time student to get a slot, as the usual suspects and the friends they bring book the courses quickly. This is telling, as to why, most comment they saw improvement both in themselves and others inside of the teaching. Most of us that are constantly chasing improvement, that the improvements come quickly at first, but as time goes on require a lot of work for a small gain. I have always seen a nice jump in improvements with my shooting after I put in the time to solidify what I learn in a 360 course.

You have to put in the work. Attending the class is teaching you how to train yourself, spend the time to do so, and you gain skill. The instruction is “gated”, as I had a long talk with Ashton, he explained to me the goal was never to follow a lesson plan, he assured me he has one, but he teaches on the understanding that his information and the way it is taught is fluid depending on the student body and what they come into the class with or are missing. The information is taught to get the maximum number of people in the course through the most gates in the lesson plan. Here is an example, last year’s Performance Pistol course had eight students, four of those were prior attendance alumni, myself and one other were in apprenticeship programs, Ashton put us all on the first relay, and had us assist, one on one, the second relay, by coaching them on the process. He and Tim still worked themselves in, but I watched four people pick up things that took me months of hard work outside of class to make permanent. That was a very different class than the first two pistol courses I attended, but the same points were made and instructed on in very different ways.

Ok, enough praise on the program, let’s get to the meat. We had a 9 a.m. start time at Cavalier Rifle and Pistol Club, I rolled in with my buddy J. a bit after 8. Set up was done, we were starting on ¼ scale steel plates. The course safety and evacuation plans for injury were laid out, the host is a paramedic, another person in attendance is a fire fighter, both excellent classmates, they would be treating injuries if any occurred, none did, gun handling was excellent from all.
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The first day was all birdshot, as students perfected push-pull or stretching the gun, an important feature of being efficient with a SG. We worked on the important skill of mounting the gun, high ready, low ready, from a short-stocked shot, out to a cheek-weld shot, and then settling the gun back into the peck index with the stock, (Preferred over using the shoulder pocket). Keeping the gun fed started being stressed, as students began to put the aforementioned skills together. The technique for stripping shells from the side carrier and efficiently getting them into the chamber or tube with the least amount of fumbling. I being the only person running lefty had a few simplifications to that procedure.
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Day two was going to be shorter, we ran long on day one due to the range having a no gunshot policy after 3 p.m. on Sundays. We went to the line and ran a review of the previous day; modern teaching science says a sleep cycle after learning technical information starts to move it into long term memory, a review post-sleep assists this with becoming permanent. We shot an abbreviated first day skills assessment, and got right into new, more complex information. Eventually we switched from steel to paper to pattern the guns. Everyone was running FFC 8 pellet, and had patterned that. We worked “select slug” or emergency loading of a slug for a specific target/threat. Shooting the final course exercise on paper for accuracy/accountability.
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I having a destroyed gun early in the second day would have wanted to pattern at known distances, but won’t have the need until it comes back repaired from Vang. Reviewing the short-stock to sighted fire transition I had switched to buckshot. We were working transitions between 3 plates, three students at a time. I was in the first relay, on the last iteration Tim heard something off with my gun, my reply to him was I just switched to 00. I went to sit my gun down, a student said Hey, check your gun, the mag tube extension was bent downward at a severe angle. Tim’s “mmmhumh” echoed, not in volume, but in realization of what that off noise was. Everyone has since been putting their heads together, a couple of causes were possible powder build up in the tube that ignited, or the end cap extension loosened to the point that when fired the barrel launched forward stripping the threads; honestly, we will likely never know. I had checked the end cap tightness a couple of times the first day, and at the start of the second day, we were about 50 rounds in when it occurred on day two.
With a loaner gun from Tim, class continued. I won’t go into much more detail, as this is a proprietary creation from two brilliant minds, that collaborate exceptionally well. If you are wanting to really up your skill with the most devastatingly effective tool at the private citizens disposal for self-defense, this is the place to go. Ashton reminded me I have a slot coming up in their final SG course coming up in September. I have missed this one twice before because it filled in seconds. I am looking forward to it and already working dry fire so I can be ready for the challenge.

To end, many of those in instruction right now deeply care about how they develop their students. They understand they may only have one session with a student that may go on to one day find themselves needing this information to save the lives of their loved ones. We joke and find humor, but I think very few take their time in front of students as seriously as the folks I visit and write about. These are two of the finest, be it pistol or shotgun, I highly recommend a visit to the T&A Show at 360* Performance Shooting. I consider myself very fortunate to have found them, and even more so to have developed a relationship with both; Good dudes, with names written in permanent ink in my book.

Gear: I ran a Vang Comp 999 870, with Vang side shell carriers and a Shield Arms waist pack, which I was dumping an extra box of shells into. There were multiple Beretta 1301t’s, two Benelli M4’s, and two other 870’s, one from Vang. Tim and Ashton shared an 870 Express with tuning, a SBS shorty 870, and 1301t. Most everyone ran Magpul SGA Stocks, the two M4’s were stocked way too long for fighting SG’s. Ammo requirement was 250 Birdshot, 50 Buck, with 25 being good quality buckshot, and 10 slugs.