I had the pleasure of attending Riley T. Bowman’s Pistol Intelligence back in June 2023. Although it was the only handgun class I took in 2023, I’m grateful it was Mr. Bowman’s class. He is a nationally-ranked, active competitive pistol shooter and teacher. He also spends a great deal of time traveling across the country to shooting matches and teach. I signed up for Pistol Intelligence after my friend, Greybeard Actual highly recommended it. Perhaps the most important factor in attending, is the fact that Mr. Bowman is an active competitor. When it comes to pure shooting skills, which is what Pistol Intelligence covers, few things validate an instructor’s knowledge and skill like participating in competition does. With the hassle, time and expense that going to a weekend training event entails, I feel better knowing that the instructor is confident enough to take those skills and throw down in the arena.
Pistol Intelligence is an advanced class best suited for those who are already comfortable shooting their pistols and drawing from the holster. It’s not a first-steps or beginner’s class, and since many discussions and topics can get into the weeds, it also wouldn’t be fair to those new students. Furthermore, I suggest you bring your favorite pen and a good notebook. Mr. Bowman spends a fair deal of time lecturing and discussing all manner of topics pertinent to shooting handguns quickly and accurately, and in this course, these lectures are as important (if not more) than the live-fire sections. I think I walked away with 8 pages of notes that weekend.
BOWMAN’S TRAINING FOCUS
I really enjoyed Mr. Bowman’s approach to teaching pistol shooting due to his first-principles approach for shooting. He breaks down what pistol shooting is and from there he discusses each part. He covers a myriad of subtopics that make up the calculus of shooting quickly and accurately. These topic included in-depth discussion about leverage and how the hand interacts with the handgun during recoil, for example. Mr. Bowman also keyed in on the role vision plays in fast-and-accurate handgun shooting, and this class covers topics such as target-focused shooting and target transitions. Beyond that, plenty of time is spent covering recoil management and shot-calling–also two significant elements of advanced handgun shooting. I thought one of the most eye-opening aspects in the curriculum was the discussion about riding recoil vs forcing the slide to stay flat. In short, I consider myself a serious handgun shooter and Pistol Intelligence felt extremely relevant from beginning to end. As an instructor, Mr. Bowman is not an absolutist and encourages students to play around with different techniques and see what works best for them. This is the first-principles approach, and what actually counts is speed, accuracy and control.
PARTICIPATING IN PISTOL INTELLIGENCE
I seldom use the word “amazing” because it gets overused, but I had an amazing experience during the weekend of our specific class. Pistol Intelligence was held in the dead heat of June at Temple Gun Club, my home gun club. That weekend, class was nothing short of amazing because it was scheduled during the same week as the USPSA Area 4 Championship [a major match], where Mr. Bowman made a detour in order to compete on staff day before arriving in central Texas. However, earlier that same week, his vehicle caught fire on the side of the interstate. He managed to ditch his SUV with most of his guns and gear before the flames completely consumed it. Considering that in the course of a few days Mr. Bowman experienced a catastrophic and traumatic event but still had the mental wherewithal to stand and deliver at a high-level USPSA match and then teach a group of 13 adult strangers for two scorching days in the Texas heat the same weekend, I think that what he pulled off was nothing short of amazing. What I’m saying is that this man can really keep it together. And it’s no wonder he shoots as well as he does. The fact of the matter is that being able to get a grip mentally is key for shooting success. Because after a certain point, performance shooting is driven by the mind.
This weekend class was populated by serious students, all who were keen on learning and were very motivated to be there. It was noticeable that everyone in attendance had been to classes in the past, and a good handful also had match experience, be it IDPA or USPSA. The flip side of the coin of what I mentioned earlier about good shooting instructors validating their skills in matches is also that good instructors are perpetual students and never stop learning. They actively attend other instructors’ courses to learn and better themselves. Greybeard Actual, who teaches classes in his own right and competes, was also on the line as a student that weekend. The class ambiance was relaxed, but everyone in attendance was serious and focused.
MY PERSONAL TAKEAWAYS
This was the first class in which I shot from a competition belt instead of from concealment, and this class was my maiden voyage with my full-size Walther PDP along with the Holosun HS507COMP red-dot sight. In fact, I zeroed the optic the morning of the first training day. With regards to the Walther PDP being brand new to me, I was a bit leery of showing up to an advanced class with a brand-new pistol and un-zeroed dot, but the PDP is so easy-shooting, that it didn’t take much to acclimatize to its grip and trigger. My conservative estimate is that I fired 500 rounds (at least) through my pistol that weekend, with no issues of course.
I’ll also add that the next match I attended after taking Pistol Intelligence, also led to some personal bests and a level of confidence in my pistol shooting that I had never seen before. The best part is that it freed up mental space to best focus on stage plans and movement. Even now, in January of 2024, I am still coasting on some of that success and using it to focus on improving my match performance. While I did shoot my PDP from a competition belt, prospective students need not worry about that. That was a personal choice while Pistol Intelligence is actually fairly gear-agnostic. In reality all one needs to succeed is a reliable semi-auto pistol with at least three magazines. While there’s nothing with bringing an iron-sighted pistol to the course, I think the majority of students are better off bringing a pistol with a slide mounted red-dot. Dots can be very conducive to advanced shooting techniques.
Shooting-wise, my biggest takeaway was probably a better understanding of the relationship between both the firing hand and the support hand and their respective pressures to build not only a good grip, but one that allows the shooter to wring out the highest level of performance they can from their gun. Note: dead tight white knuckle grips are not always better!
THE CULMINATION OF PISTOL INTELLIGENCE
The climax of Pistol Intelligence is a series of standards and evaluations whose score is factored into something Mr. Bowman refers to Pistol IQ. To earn a good Pistol Intelligence Quotient, a shooter has to be well rounded. NRA B-8 targets, index cards, transitions, etc are all part of this evaluation. Those who score a PIQ of 144 or higher earn a nice keepsake in the form of a serialized Pistol IQ metal card. All aspects of the Pistol IQ assessment directly tie-in and call for the material covered in class for a good IQ score. Following Pistol IQ, the last event Mr. Bowman had for students was a mini USPSA style stage with a couple of IPSC cardboard cutouts and a few steel poppers. While participation in this stage was optional, the stage itself wasn’t too complex but it was still a very fun way to implement everything covered in class that weekend. The student with the best score won a voucher for a free holster from KSG Armory, one of Mr. Bowman’s companies.
Besides the breadth and depth of advanced handgun shooting concepts covered in Pistol Intelligence, this course is also very relevant to modern shooting. Like I mentioned above, it’s worthwhile to bring a reliable pistol with a properly mounted and torqued red-dot sight. For the level and quality of training one receives during class, at only $450 for a two-day weekend, Pistol Intelligence is one of the best deals available to the serious pistol student.