Course Review: Sheriff of Baghdad Revisited
After having a great experience with John "Shrek" McPhee (The Sheriff of Baghdad) in December, I decided to host him at the Watkinsville location. I wrote a lengthy AAR after my first training classes with John in Americus, Georgia. In the 15 years that I've been attending training through law enforcement and civilian trainers, John is the first who has used video to diagnose and correct issues with students' form. As an instructor, I immediately appreciated John's "modern sport-coaching" model.
John was booked for multiple 1-day video diagnostic courses in pistol and rifle. June 18th was Pistol, the 19th was a Rifle course, and a second Pistol course was scheduled on the 20th. It was scheduled purposely over Father's Day weekend as my parents were visiting and my dad was turning 70 on Father's Day. We both audited the classes on the first two days together and did some shooting. Sharing that time with my dad, who first introduced me to shooting 30 years ago, was an amazing experience. While dad didn't shoot, watching the 8 students get video critiqued and seeing the common mistakes in form helped him correct a number of issues he's been having on the range. He made a measurable improvement in his own shooting just from watching the courses and seeing what most people need to improve upon. The subconscious is a powerful tool, which is one of the themes of John's training.
John began the course with the "Shoot two, reload, shoot two" exercise that I'd performed during the first class. Taking a 5-second video, John then broke it into four separate videos, onto which he narrated and made corrections using the Coach's Eye software. Each student received four videos, focusing on Stance, Grip, Presentation, and Reload. The videos were generally between 3 and 5 minutes in length, and had John's voice and commentary on them when the students received them through Dropbox.
Since taking John's first class, I've transitioned to Appendix as my every day carry option. As more students have begun showing up to classes with red dot pistols, I built a Glock 19 with a Trijicon RMR on it to educate myself on that equipment. I decided to run that with my Veil Solutions appendix holster to get new feedback on my draw and presentation, rather than the strong side hip holster and iron sights I'd run in the first class. My goal was to get a head start on this platform by getting a list of best practices before I developed any bad habits.
I modified a number of things about my shooting style after my first SOB Tactical class. I've been shooting seriously for 15 years, and generally, I'm in the top of the pack at the classes I attend. Because of that, it's common for instructors to simply say "That's good. Keep it up." While that can be gratifying, I take classes to improve my skill set, not to get head pats. In the last three pistol classes I've attended, I've had no feedback or critique of my form. The instructors have left me completely alone on the range to do my own thing, rather than identifying areas of possible improvement. In contrast, John's video critique of my form has helped me isolate areas for improvement, because the video can see at 240 frames per second and doesn't lie. As he says, there's no perfect shooting, just better.
When I compare my videos from the first SOB Tactical class to the ones from June 20th, I can see a marked improvement in my shooting setup. I'm learning forward into the gun. I'm controlling recoil more efficiently. My presentation gets the gun in front of my eyes sooner so that I can clean up my sight picture on the way to the target. The delay between presentation to the target and my first shot has gone from .35 seconds to .10 seconds, giving me a 1/4 second first shot advantage over my previous shooting.
When I compare my videos, I can also see areas where I haven't improved, such as a tendency to look over the sights at close range, a failure to lock my arms to full extension, and a gap that continues between my eye line, the sights, and my shoulders. Also, my right elbow tends to flare into a chicken wing on the draw, resulting in a slight downward cant to the firearm that makes sight acquisition difficult.
As John says, the "so what" of all of this is that while I'm an accomplished shooter, spend more days than not on the range training people, been involved in multiple real-life force on force incidents and presented a gun at living human beings, there is still a great deal of room for improvement in my shooting. I'm not a perfect shooter and never will be. What's awesome about all of this is that it gives me something to strive for and improve upon. It's nice to have goals and see measurable improvement in my skill. It's even better to have pertinent, professional feedback on my current skill level and a list of ways to improve.
Finally, I'd like to give a nod to John's teaching style. John is non-judgmental and patient in his instruction. His teaching method is modeled on professional athletic training, so there's no screaming, yelling, or demeaning of the students. The atmosphere is positive throughout the instruction, regardless of the skill set of the individual shooter. Because of that, the focus is on shooting every round in as a manner as close to perfect as possible. It's a refreshing change from a number of classes I've taken where old men with handlebar mustaches have yelled at, mocked, and demeaned the students. The professional attitude John displayed throughout the class was greatly appreciated. The fact that he's capped the classes at 8 students is also excellent, as it gives him time to work with everyone 1 on 1, rather than 1 on 27.
The pros and cons of the Sheriff of Baghdad courses are as follows:
Cons: $375 per student per day, downtime for students during the morning hours during the video diagnostics, static shooting only (no movement)
Pros: 1 on 1 coaching, video diagnosis of their shooting, students receive the videos made during the class, low stress, detailed method for improving your shooting beyond the class, small class size.
For those of you who like swag, John usually awards something to the person who wins a specific drill at the end of the class. My first go-round, it was awarded to the person who got the farthest during a walk-back drill. This time it was the smallest group size of 30 rounds between 3 and 10 yards.