Being a Tough Guy for a Week [PART 1]

 

Matt Stagliano

When the opportunity arose and I was presented with a complimentary slot in the class (excluding travel), I jumped at the chance like a fat kid at a chocolate fountain. I pulled my credit card, booked a flight, and started getting nervous. I’ve taken almost 1000 hours of training over the past few years with guys like Pat Rogers, Steve Fisher, Kerry Davis, John Chapman, Chris Costa, Ron Avery, Matt Jacques, Erik Utrecht, Freddy Osuna and others, and while that is not much to some it is much more than a lot of folks get. This one six-day class would add another 72 or so hours.
The entrance gate to Gunsite
The entrance gate to Gunsite
Flags at Gunsite Academy
Flags at Gunsite Academy

Ammo at BixPros EoS

The ammo for the week stacked in the classroom
The Mayflower chest rig I used during the week.
The Mayflower chest rig I used during the week.
In the alternate classroom, Rob Leatham performed the same safety checks on our pistols and mag pouches while quizzing us on safety and watching our basic manipulation. It was here that I started to see Leatham’s personality come to light- a mix of focus, humor, wisecracks, and over the top ego. Leatham’s seemingly endless trove of stories was always on full display. At some point I have to ask him about a supposed scorpion bite on the dick. Deftly dodging questions from others about said dick bite, Leatham addressed the group, laying down the law for safety, accuracy, and the fact that we would be overloaded with information. Chuckling, he said, “This class will not be what you expect.”

Pistol gear check before class
Pistol gear check before class
Rob Leatham running the pistol qualification
Rob Leatham running the pistol qualification
A student at Evolution of Shooting
A student at Evolution of Shooting

The 40-shot string at distances from 5 to 25 yards was meant to be nothing more than a way to gauge our skills. With perfection being all 40 shots in the Alpha zones of an IDPA target, I had three Charlies and in my head was able to call every single one of them as they were shot. I would have been happy on any other range, but the barely-missed shots just irked me. I wound up in the second tier group. I knew I could do better.

The author's qualification target
The author’s qualification target
Chief Chris White talking about the art of the BZO
Chief Chris White talking about the art of the BZO
Father and son shooting on TD1
Father and son shooting on TD1
A student at the Evolution of Shooting
A student at the Evolution of Shooting

Steve Tarani explaining the concepts of Prefense

Steve Tarani explaining the concepts of Prefense

With an emphasis on avoiding, mitigating, or defending against threats, Tarani took us through the salient points of his book “Prefense” (we all got a copy). There are three major themes of his Prefense philosophy: 1) Have a 90% advantage over the bad guy by understanding the very nature of threats, recognizing them and becoming hard to kill, 2) elevating your situational awareness for yourself and for those around you and 3) when faced with a threat, understanding exactly what will be necessary to defeat it. “The fight starts before the fight starts,” Tarani stated in his modest tone. It’s about mindset, preparedness both physically and mentally, and living life not in a state of paranoia, but of readiness. It was up to us to be able to complete any given fight by using no more than two moves in two seconds. We would hear “two moves/two seconds” as a mantra over the subsequent days.

The carbine range
The carbine range
Heading down to the carbine range for our final block of the day, we assembled as a group, checked our gear and White began to take us through the zeroing process. Having guns that were properly zeroed, especially after all of the travel we did, would be important. We utilized the 50 yard zero on paper with confirmation at 200 yards on steel. My optic, an Aimpoint Micro H1, had been dialed in the day before my trip so I was relatively sure I would be good to go. However, out at 200 yards, my shots were just high on a 1/4 scale steel target. Due to time constraints we only had five shots to confirm, and once I brought my point of aim down a bit I was ringing steel. I made a mental note that leaving my Vortex variable optic at home was a mistake, but hey, you gotta dance with who brung ya.

Chief White discussing different optic setups
Chief White discussing different optic setups
"My Place on 89" where dinner was served each night
“My Place on 89” where dinner was served each night
Dr Steven Bucci
Dr Steven Bucci

While stating that “readiness is an esoteric concept,” Bucci’s takeways were that the biggest threat posed by ISIS at the moment is remotely trained radicals, and that we could very well be on the brink of a major war in the Middle East since it resembles pre-WWI Europe. You know, really uplifting stuff. The poignant, if not somewhat bleak geo-political outlook was matched well with the pulled pork.

Firelance Media-3038
Denise Bixler, along with Chris Schneider of 5.11 presents the class with a range bag full of 5.11 gear

-Matt

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