Pistol LVL 1 & 2 with BAER Solutions – June 2020

June 26-27th, 2020 we hosted the Pistol LVL 1 & 2 courses with BAER Solutions.

What was expected to happen?

Pistol LVL 1

This is a level 1 pistol course that will stress fundamentals, and most importantly providing the “how” and the “why” in addition to what you are trying to accomplish throughout the training day.

By the end of the day each shooter will know where they are at and what to work on as you go forward in your training. This is not a course where you will just be led through drills and told what you are doing wrong. Here we will work on fixing them based on what works for you. Identifying your deficiencies and giving you the tools to improve is the end state of the class. We will progress from fundamentals to multiple target transitions and an intro into movement.

Pistol LVL 2

This is a level 2 pistol course that will stress fundamentals, and most importantly providing the “how” and the “why” in addition to what you are trying to accomplish throughout the training day.

By the end of the day each shooter will know where they are at and what to work on as you go forward in your training. This is not a course where you will just be led through drills and told what you are doing wrong. Here we will work on fixing them based on what works for you. Identifying your deficiencies and giving you the tools to improve is the end state of the class. We will briefly touch on fundamentals before we work on movement, barrier shooting, pie-ing off doors, and stress courses.

What actually occurred?

Pistol LVL 1

The day starts with a cold start drill. Anyone who has been to a BAER Solutions course knows that Drew takes this drill quite seriously. It is a short, simple drill with well defined pass/fail standards.

Early in the morning, we started with stance and discussed various aspects of a good “fighting stance”. There was a good deal of focus on a stance that will allow us to “accept and deal out force”.

After stance, we moved on to forming a proper grip. We brokedown a proper grip then discussed and practiced several individual aspects of the grip before putting them all together:

  • Spread the gun (up and down) with firing hand
  • Think about extension as well as squeezing
  • Left hand “meat” like the rear wide tires on a drag racer
  • Extend arms straight, vs arms slightly bent

After forming a proper stance and grip, we discussed trigger pull. With this Drew had us move into the “now drill” with a buddy (aka coach) watching the pistol and the trigger only (NOT the target).

The rest of LVL1 was spent working our way through the following fundamentals, with the goal of building solid foundation to progress onto more complex drills and techniques:

  • High ready / low ready positions
  • Scanning (eyes lead, gun follows)
  • Draw
  • Reloads 
  • Cadence at varying distances of 3, 7, 15, 25 yards
  • One shot draw 
  • Bill drill

BARE Solutions always finishes the day with a head to head “top shot” “stage” style competition that lets everyone pressure test what they have been working on all day.

Pistol LVL 2

I bet you can’t guess what the day started out with? Yep, a cold start drill – true to BAER Solutions’ style.

The LVL 2 pistol course quickly progressed into barricade work

  • VTAC
  • Low Wall
  • High wall / doorway

Another BAER Solution favorite is his version of the stress shoot / stroop test that involves colors, simple math and bit a memory work and thinking. Everyone always enjoys this, especially if they have not done similar drills in the past.

Up next was movement! Starting out with moving and then shooting, or movement to static positions. After working on the movement to static positions for a while, the class quickly progressed into shooting while moving forward and back.

A solid couple hours was spent in several small break out drill sessions, and then the day ended with the “top shot” competition sponsored by Viktos. They are super cool and provide prizes to the top shooter from every BAER Solutions course!

What went well and why?

Lot’s of things went well during this course, but one thing that stood out in particular, were our “breakout sessions”. After a particular skill or group of skills was demonstrated, we split into small groups and “got our reps in”. Drew would make his rounds and provide feedback to both groups and individuals. We got reps, Drew provided feedback, but to be honest the most beneficial aspect of these breakout drills was the opportunity we (as students) got to analyze, process and provide feedback to each other. After getting some practice reps and hearing feedback from Drew and other students, having the opportunity to watch others perform the drills/skills – having the opportunity to help them overcome challenges and improve based on our feedback was incredible valuable for our own learning and progression.

Do what you feel, feel what you do

A simple statement, but this made a HUGE difference in my shooting over the weekend. This came from a fellow student who had some expertise in athletics training, and I took it seriously and foresee myself focusing on this aspect for some time to come.

Another aspect that stood out to me compared to some other “run and gun” type training was the focus and ample opportunity to dry fire almost every new drill throughout the weekend.

We are aiming for progress, not perfection – learn what to practice!

Drew helped the students set and achieve REASONABLE goals through the LVL 1 & 2 courses. He pushed us, but also let us succeed. If you know about learning and achieving higher and higher standards, you know that this is important.

What can be improved and how?

Course Host / Organizer

This is now my 14th shooting event I have organized / hosted, and I feel like I am starting to get the hang of it and can foresee MOST issues that come up. That being said, there is always room for improvement!

I am constantly finding that I need MORE of what I already have. Supplies, stands, targets, spray paint, first aid supplies etc etc. That is my goal moving forward: build some depth to my current inventory so that I can handle more!

Course Instructor

The easiest and probably most significant improvement the instructor could have made during this course, was to have a lower student to instructor ratio. This could be accomplished by using a better registration system that would not allow too many people to sign up, or by Drew using a trusted assistant instructor. Unfortunately on day 1 (LVL 1) we had 20 students on the line, with only Drew as the instructor. Certain students’ learning experience suffered due to this, especially those who were more timid about asking questions or getting Drew’s attention. We only dropped to 18 on day 2, but it was a noticeable improvement over the 20 shooters on day 1, although an AI would still have been useful with 18 students.

Drew does a better job than most with pre-course materials and questionnaires etc, but the delivery system could easily be improved. The fact that he does it all is a huge bonus and benefit, but the platform where the equipment list, questionnaire etc are hosted is not super intuitive for those who do not regularly using it. That being said, it is still a step ahead of most instructors, so…

Course Participant

Both days were long and hot, with a lot of time out in the sun. During Day 1, there were several shooters who obviously did not stay on top of their hydration, and they suffered for it. Know and respect your limits and your capabilities. Taking care of your physical wellbeing is nothing to be ashamed of or to be viewed as a weakness. Don’t be afraid to step back from the firing line and get an extra drink of water if you need to!

We have now hosted BAER Solutions twice (Rifle LVL 1 & 2 – 2019), and both times I have seen the same thing among many shooters, who in most ways are better shooters than myself. During the final top shot competition, they let the social pressure (or other pressure of some sort) get to them and “let the wheels fall off”. Although I wholeheartedly agree there is a time for that, the top shot competition in not that. I have been able to eek my way to a win during both courses by keeping a few simple points in mind:

  • I MUST get good hits (there is a heavy 5 second penalty for misses).
  • I MUST go as fast and I can, while still not missing.
  • If I loose, oh well!

Although I am fairly competitive, I am able to throttle myself to keep from loosing the competition for myself. If I am going to loose, it is because the other shooter is better than me, not because I screwed myself over. I do not have the fastest draws, split times or transitions, but I have been working hard on knowing my limits and being able to hold myself back (despite any external or internal pressures) to a point where I know I can get good hits.

Summary

The BAER Solutions Pistol LVL 1 & LVL 2 courses are a nice blend of fundamentals and the fun (and also useful) tactics of shooting a combat / defensive pistol. Although there are courses that focus more on fundamentals, and courses that focus more on the defensive or tactical side of shooting, I think that most defensive (home defense, law enforcement etc) shooters will find it a useful and enjoyable blend of the two throughout the two days. Drew also mixes in a bit of the competition side of things as applicable.

Drew does a nice job of presenting the topics and focus points and makes a concerted effort to “spread the love” and does his best to offer one on one interaction with each student. As a training professional, it is obvious to me that Drew also puts a lot of time and thought into his curriculum and helping the students get as much as they can out of the training. If you are interested in learning more about shooting a defensive pistol, you would not be unhappy with this training.

Instructor Bio:

In more than a decade long special operations career, Drew Estell was fortunate enough to serve with soldiers and instructors who were invested in his success, and as such has benefited from the years of experience that each of them had. One thing he learned is that no shooter is the same. Fundamentals are a constant in this profession. With that said, each person has to tailor training and techniques to fit their particular needs. By programming training to maximize the learning curve, Drew can get customers from their current level of performance to a higher one much quicker. 

In his Army career drew was deployed numerous times to combat zones and had other unique experiences that bring a different perspective to training. He’s seen what bad training can do to a team and individual, and he’s seen what good training can do for those same people. His methodology is based on his real world experience, training, and lessons learned along the way. Drew believes you can learn something from everyone, and shouldn’t dismiss something new because it is outside of our comfort level, as long as it makes us more lethal and achieves our end state.  Everything we do on the flat range translates to its “real world” application. There are things that look cool, and there are things that perform when we need them to. BAER Solutions’ training is meant to perform when it counts.

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