Course Dates: September 26 / November 27
It’s been a few months since I attended the Sheriff of Baghdad
video diagnostic Pistol and Rifle courses.
I’ve used this time to evaluate what I learned. When I attend a class, I’m evaluating the
training from the viewpoints of a student as well as an instructor. I focus on improving my skill set as a
shooter, but I also look for teaching methods or tools that will allow me make
my own instruction more effective.
I knew almost nothing about John “Shrek” McPhee prior to
attending this class. Shane Gosa had
booked him, and I’ve come to trust his judgment on instructors. I knew that John used the Coach’s Eye
software to a video review of each shooter’s technique. That intrigued me, because I’ve never
attended a course that used video or photography in that way. A search of student AARs for John’s courses
generally made a statement to the effect that I would fire “the best four
rounds of your life.” Andrew Still
accompanied me to the classes, so we had most of the Sparrow Defense staff on
The class started at 8 AM.
John was there early in order to set up the electrical equipment
necessary for the course. We began with
a simple exercise: Draw the firearm, fire two rounds center mass at a target,
reload from slide-lock, and fire two more rounds. Each student performed that drill while John used
his phone to video the drill. Once each
of the students had completed that drill, we moved to the covered shelter for
the video diagnostics.
John broke the raw video footage into four different areas:
Stance, Grip, Presentation, and Reload.
Each of those subject areas was discussed in a separate video. Using the software package, John would
narrate his comments while drawing lines in red, yellow, and green to show what
was being done correctly and what was being done improperly. The software allowed him to slow down to
frame-by-frame progression to show the path of the gun. He could also run a timer to show shot delays
and split times, the amount of time wasted through extraneous movement, and
plot a path that would shave off fractions of seconds. The video review took approximately 30
minutes per student. Each student came
away from the course with five videos that they could download and review in
the future. I’ve watched mine many times
since, incorporating them into dry fire exercises at home. I’ve also taken some of his views on form and
plugged them into the lessons I provide to new shooters.
As a student, I found the video review very helpful. It’s one thing to tell a student that their
stance is improper. It’s another to show them an outside view, draw on it, and
show them HOW it is improper. In my
case, I found that I was standing up much straighter than I had initially believed. I was also able to see the progression of the
recoil as it traveled down my arms into my shoulders and core. The video was detailed enough that I could
see the progression of the muscles in my forearms and triceps move with the
recoil impulse. I saw my muzzle rise,
saw where my eyes were looking at the sight, and saw where my wrists were not
locked out. I saw how I needed to refine
my reload to clean it up, and how I was losing time on the sights by not
bringing the gun up in front of my eyes fast enough. It was an awesome and
eye-opening experience. All of that came
from a 7 second video segment taken during a shoot two, reload, shoot two
John’s segments were well-rehearsed, because he moved
through the process fluidly. Each
student received a review specific to their shooting style. While I found great benefit as a shooter from
the review of my own form, I learned just as much from watching the video
reviews of the other students. Everyone
at the course was a seasoned shooter with hundreds or thousands of hours behind
the gun. Each one of us took something
of value from the course.
As an instructor, I took more than twenty pages of notes on
how John reviewed the video and progressed through the different focus
areas. I immediately began thinking of
how his model could be plugged into agency firearm training. During a break, I asked him if he did work
with law enforcement and told me that he consulted with several metropolitan
agencies on building a student video database.
It’s time intensive, but departments with a full time training staff
could easily rotate students through a video diagnostic review. In the course of an hour, an officer could perform
the entire process from start to finish.
After the diagnostics, dry fire exercises and/or a 50 round box of ammo
could refine that officer’s shooting techniques and model ways to improve on
their off time. In a time when budgets
are being tightened, John’s process was highly effective in terms of cost vs.
Following the video review of each student, we moved onto
the range and performed shooting exercises that focused on the changes that
John had made to our technique. It was a
low round count day; I shot less than 250 rounds during the entire 8 hours.
Many of the shooting exercises were performed individually, with John providing
1-1 instruction while the rest of the class watched. While it caused each student to have
down-time, each round was scrutinized.
We were looking for perfect practice to retrain muscle memory, not a
high round count. While some of the
range exercises seemed almost remedial, I found that I focused on making every
shot count and paid more attention to my shooting process than normal. John would generally stop each shooter mid
exercise to correct form issues. He’d
tweak your stance, rotate your support hand, roll the shoulders up, or bring
make some other small adjustment. By the
end of the day I had soreness in my legs, back, and arms from maintaining such
a strict form.
John broke down the range at 5PM. It was a true 8 hour day and not a second longer. Following the end of class, we gave feedback
on the course. Many of the students,
myself included, expressed that we would have enjoyed an “out video”, showing
how our form had changed throughout the day.
John stated that he’s still attempting to work out how to do that within
the confines of a one day class, and that the out video was the most common
request he received from students.
The following day, I attended the Rifle Diagnostics
course. That course followed the same
progression as the pistol, working on the same four fundamentals: Stance, Grip,
Presentation, Reload. I again saw
problems with my form that would be impossible to detect with the naked
eye. I came away from that course with 5
videos that I also continue to watch when I perform dry fire.
In conclusion, I’m glad that I had the opportunity to train
with John. While his courses aren’t
cheap ($375 per day), I ultimately found the experience to be worthwhile. As I wrote earlier, every shooter attending
was operating at a high level of efficiency and had a great deal of time behind
the gun. For shooters looking to go
beyond the 90-95% and shave off fractions of a second, this would be money well
spent. The micro-changes in form and
technique that I’ve made were things that I believed I was doing properly until
I saw my videos. It took an outside view
to see how I was losing time and making mistakes.
John has recently made a change to his booking policy and
capped his courses at 8 students. I
appreciate the commitment to personalized instruction on his part. There’s nothing worse than paying $500.00 to
split your time standing should to shoulder with 26 other shooters. John will be coming to Athens, GA in March of
2016 for his one day video diagnostic courses on the pistol and rifle. I intend to take the pistol course with my
Veil Solutions appendix rig this time, rather than the strong side hip holster
that I used in the first class. It’s my
way of getting an “out video” and seeing how I’ve progressed since the first
You can find information on John’s classes at his two