Sunday, November 6, 2011

TigerSwan 2 day tactical pistol class review


TigerSwan was found in 2005, making it a relatively newcomer compared to other established firearm training schools. It may not have flashy reputation(or tries to make one), but it certainly has plenty of real world experience that tests the techniques and sort out the ones that work.

Founder Brian Searcy served many years in Army Special Operations and many instructors of TigerSwan have experience in training and in use of firearms. Their usual group of students are from military and law enforcement, but they also have classes for everyday people, like this one.

Day 1

When I arrived at the range, there were some familiar faces and new faces. The class was promoted via Grey Group(http://greygrouptraining.com/) who also takes care of registrations for other instructors like Larry Vickers, Ken Hackathorn, and Jason Falla.

In the class, the first thing that was covered was safety. Any decent class will cover firearm safety first, regardless of who is attending it. Two instructors, David and Matt, emphasized importance of firearm safety and did not mince any words. 

With classes like this, it is likely that there will be varying degrees of skills. Many atudents come from different background, which inevitably leads to a bit of confusion on standard procedures including loading and unloading. The instructors were aware of this, and made sure everyone was on the same page.

There is no such thing as "advanced tactical skills" - there is only perfect execution of the fundamentals under stress.

This is the phrase I heard when I attended my first TigerSwan class a year ago, and it is something TigerSwan strongly believes in. First part of the class was marksmanship. No matter who you are, you want to make every shot count, and having a good marksmanship is important.


In most classes I've attended, marksmanship portion was done in 5-10 yards, with smaller target. In this class, we were put on 25 yard line and NRA 25 yard pistol target was used. If there were any deficiency in fundamental marksmanship, it will show up at that distance. Checking your stance and other possible bad habits were done during this part.

When people think of Tactical training, image of some exotic techniques comes to mind, but TigerSwan isn't one to promote such. About first 2-3 hours were spent on marksmanship on the first day, including ball and dummy drill.


Once we were done with basic marksmanship, we moved on to several drills that utilized IPSC target. Some of the drills included shooting more than 2 rounds in to the A-zone.

One of the common training scars that a lot of people have is shooting a pair of rounds and then assessing the area instead of checking if the threat has been dealt with. The focus was to break this habit by utilizing differing number of shots.

Next drill was transition from one target to another. When engaging targets that are some distance apart, it is most likely that the time it takes to transition from one target to another is longer than landing the second shot on a same target. The focus of the drill was to make the transition between targets as fast as landing the second shot on a same target.

We also practiced on how to control the speed of transition in order to make the hits that were more difficult. Transitioning between targets that present large and small area requires adjusting speed as needed and the use of smaller A-zone(head) was implemented.

The last item of the first day was techniques for single handed manipulation of pistol. There could be a chance that your hand is shot and if that happens, you have to manipulate with just one hand. Several different techniques were presented and pros and cons of each were discussed.



Day 2

The next day started off with marksmanship training again. It was almost like the first day, but now a shot timer was used to induce stress. You would think that it was done after the first day, but fundamentals should not be taken for granted, so we worked on it for an hour or two. During this time, we added single handed shooting. This is the type of thing you expect to see in an Olympic shooting class or bull's eye class, but it teaches us the importance of marksmanship.


After marksmanship work, we worked on kneeling position and prone positions. There were details that made a difference in how comfortable and efficient each position could be compared to the the way I usually perform it.

Following item was movements with gun. The material was about how to stop and engage the threat while you were moving. There are times when you have to move from one position to another and as soon as you get to that position, you need to engage the target. We were taught skills that improved our efficiency.


Then came the shooting on the move. This is a skill that many people attempt to do, and have plenty of room for improvement.

One of the toughest skill to acquire in tactical training is not some fancy firearm manipulation technique, but being able to think fast and discriminate targets. There are several ways this can be done.

One is to use some number of different targets. For example, we can have several threat and non-threat targets down range. However, after a while it becomes an excercise of identifying the targets, not thinking.

Another method is to utilize the shape/color/number on target and calling out the shape/color/number. This is more challenging, but it also can end up being a memorization training, rather than critical thinking.

The drill we did was even more challenging than what I've seen so far. It forced the shooter to identify the target and think whether you can engage or not. Memorizing the target could help, but it can help you only so much and the critical thinking took over sooner or later.

At the very end, we had a drill to go through which tested our skills. It was a modified zig-zag drill and we were not to miss any rounds. No one completed the drill perfectly although a few came really close.


After thoughts

This class is not for a novice. You should be proficient with weapon manipulation (including malfunction clearance) and be safe all the time. Most of the materials covered in this class was under the assumption that the student has those skills. It certainly helps students absorb more information when they can perform those
manipulations proficiently.

For those who consider themselves lacking in such skills, TigerSwan offers 1 day Tactical Pistol course that will cover the topics.

One of the things that scare a potential student is preconceived notion of the training provider. TigerSwan has an impressive cadre of trainers and experience, and to some people it will be intimidating. Some might think of a strict drill instructor from some B-rated movies, but it is far from the truth. The instructors were those who represented the best of the professional soldiers and they do not deviate from the professionalism you would expect from the group.

Both instructors, David and Matt, were professional in their instuction, and you do not feel as if there is an invisible wall between the students and instructors. You'd think the two instructors were your neighbors from their casual appearance.

Some might be scared by the amount of ammunition requirement for the class - 1200 rounds. At the end of the training, there were about 250 rounds left. It seems like the round count was increased so you can take the class without worrying about how many rounds you have left. There were some drills where you went through a lot of rounds, but when instructions for techniques began, round count was less. This doesn't mean they were skimping on rounds during drill, but rather how they focused on getting the technique right instead of hosing rounds down range.

If the price of the course scares you, don't let it stop you from taking the course. While the price may be high, the amount of information and correction/training you get offsets the cost. The saying 'You get what you paid for.' is true for this class.

In the beginning of the class, David mentioned that everyone will learn something they can take home. It certainly was true for me, and probably for everyone.

About TigerSwan
Website: http://www.tigerswan.biz (Training: http://www.tigerswan.com/site/training/)
Cost: $575
Rounds needed: 1,200 (most likely under 1,000)

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