Course Review: Semi-Auto Level 3 @ GPSTC
I was happy to spend the first four days of the week on the range at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center (GPSTC) attending Semi-Auto 3. Ever since I began spending most of my weekends instructing, my own time behind the gun has gone down. While Sparrow Defense hosts instructors throughout the year, my round count is probably around a 1/3rd of what it was prior to starting my business. It was a pleasant change of pace to hit the range as a student.
Semi-Auto 3 is considered by the GPSTC instructors to be the most difficult program offered at the training center. The course is shot completely on steel targets that expose themselves for various lengths of time and in various orders. The range is the same system designed and used by Bill Rogers of the Rogers School of Shooting in Ellijay, Georgia. The Rogers School is on my bucket list of training locations, but I don't have the $2,000 that a week there would cost. The GPSTC course is very similar, and was made available to the law enforcement community for training under the conditions that no one is to be charged for the shooting there.
I had simple goals for the class. I wanted to get a base-line shooting assessment for the three carry guns that I routinely employ. My current carry lineup is:
Gen 4 Glock 17, stippled, with a ZEV Ultimate trigger kit, ZEV barrel, Ameriglo Spartan Tactical sights, and an Agency Arms magwell. I run that in an AIWB Veil Solutions rig
Gen 4 Glock 19 MOS, stippled, with a ZEV Ultimate trigger, 3.5 MOA Trijicon RMR, Ameriglo mid-height suppressor sights, and an Agency Arms magwell. Carry gear for that is a Veil Solutions Mantis and IWB mag pouch
Gen 4 Glock 34 with a GlockTriggers.com Guardian trigger kit, Ameriglo Spartan Tactical sights, and an Agency Arms magwell. That's carried in a Safariland Level 4 retention holster on my strong side hip at work.
Because each of these guns is unique, I wanted to see if there was an appreciable difference in how well I shot each. To that end, I swapped my equipment each day so that I could complete a test attempt with each system. The test is 100 target presentations in 9 stages. It involves shooting with both hands from low ready, transition (high) ready, from the holster, strong hand only, and weak hand only. It's no alibi shooting, so students are required to keep their weapon working regardless of malfunctions or ammunition issues. There are multiple forced reloads which must be completed with strong hand only and support hand only. It's one of the more difficult courses of fire I've gone through, and everything is on the clock. If you take too long, your target disappears and you lose the ability to get the point. If you don't make a solid hit, the plate won't fall and you'll lost the point. The shooting is conducted from 7 to 15 yards and the targets are usually exposed for approximately 1.5 to 3 seconds each.
- On attempt 1 I took what I considered to be my base line. My G17 is familiar and well used. My first attempt netted 93 of 100 plates, and most of my misses were with support hand only, though I lost two rounds at the 15 yard line due to rushing.
- On attempt 2, the following day, I snagged a 96/100. The test was conducted after lunch, and I'd debated swapping weapons during the break due to the difficulty I was experiencing in finding the dot on my RMR. One of the observations I made as I used the optic was that precise presentation to the target is extremely important when using a dot on a pistol. Without the four points of contact a rifle affords me, or even the two points of contact when using both hands, I find myself fishing for the dot on the way to the target. Once I find the dot I can track it easily, but it's very difficult to do it without both hands on the gun. My frustration level had grown during the morning as we were mainly shooting with one hand for the first four hours of class. Nevertheless, after the lunch, I found that the dot aided me when transitioning between targets, and after focusing my attention on a good index position and driving my arm to full extension and locking out when shooting with one hand, I was able to pick up three points that I'd dropped the day before. After the test attempt, we ran the "Zombie Drill" where targets appeared as fast as possible. I netted 39 hits during that run with the runner up grabbing 33. In spite of that, the RMR is still uncomfortable and alien to me. I love it as a diagnostic tool, and it allows for precision shooting at extended ranges (it's currently zeroed at 50 yards and I shoot regularly to 100 with it), so I think it's still a valuable and viable tool for CCW and Law Enforcement applications.
- On attempt 3 during the last day of class, I managed to get 95/100 plates with the gun I carry in uniform. My missed points were mainly due to rushing my shots at the longer ranges or looking over my sights as I transitioned. That small head a the 15 yard line and I have a rematch scheduled for the future.
Overall, I was pleased with my performance. The course gave me a good assessment of my current skill set, a list of things to work on at the range, and some added confidence in my overall ability to shoot in spite of changing up my gear on a regular basis. A student earns the Advanced rating for achieving 96 of the 100 possible points. Only a handful of people have ever shot perfect scores on the test, but I haven't seen a list or plaque with their names at the Firearms Training facility. For comparison sake, the Rogers School has been operating for 40 years and has only 8-9 people who have run the course clean. Clearly, this isn't a skill that's easy to master in a day or week.
I had a great experience during the class. The GPSTC Firearms staff has had a fruit-basked turnover since my last trip. David Knight is the only instructor with whom I was familiar, so it was odd to see so many new faces. David is an avid and amazing shooter in his own right, but I was also pleased with the professionalism and knowledge of the entire staff. With the course goal of teaching the concept of reactionary shooting in mind, I have no complaints or criticism of the subject matter.
As a final observation, I believe that the course was made easier by my time shooting matches through GADPA, IDPA, and 3-Gun, all of which utilizes a variety of moving targets. In many ways, having shot courses of fire that provided movement to the targets, movement of myself, or both at the same time made standing still and focusing on my front sight much easier than it would have been otherwise. Get out there and shoot! Anything that you can use to expand your tool box is time well spent.
Fri, August 5, 2016