Gunsite Academy’s 350 Intermediate Pistol course is one of the premier defensive handgun training courses in the world not just because it offers excellent square range training with instructors with decades of real world experience, but because it offer both indoor and outdoor live-fire simulator runs to test everything you’ve learned on the range.
Shooting from a stationary position is easy, but when you start incorporating shooting and moving together as we increasingly do in 350 Intermediate Pistol, mastering footwork, working angles, finding cover, and ammo management become crucial.
Did I mention we have to discern “shoot” from “no shoot” targets, and some of the targets are ambiguous?
Here’s just a taste of what an indoor simulator run might look like on a given day at Gunsite.
Keep in mind that the run above appears to be a first-time run, conducted in the daytime in a 250 level course, with fewer tactical problems.
We made three indoor simulator runs in the 350 Intermediate Pistol class, as well as three outdoor runs (we’ll discuss those in another article), and none of the three were the same.
We did two daytime simulator runs in the 350 Intermediate Pistol (a different indoor simulator building each time, with different layouts, target placements, and selection of shoot/no shoot targets), and a nighttime simulator run that was an entirely different world.
My biggest problems in my indoor simulator runs in August of last year were of tunnel vision, target fixation, and jerking the heck out of the trigger.
Twice I was so intent on clearing the rooms and moving on to figure out how to tackle the next door that I completely overlooked open windows… and got “shot” as I bypassed them without making sure bad guys were lurking on the other side out of view.
Oops doesn’t quite seem to cover it.
In addition, my shot placement in my 250 class was frequently horrible. Just as it often happens to many people in real life shootings, when I identified the target as a threat I’d look at the threatening object—a gun or a knife—and then point the gun in the direction of the object and jerk the trigger, firing shots instead of looking at my sights.
My gunfire was scattered around the threatening object, sometimes missing the bad guy entirely, and other times hitting the targets in the lower abdomen… not good shot placement at all. I distinctly recall somehow completely missing one target in a location that surprised me when ti was only two yards away. It’s a humbling experience, let me tell you, but something the instructors fully anticipate as part of the learning experience.
This time around in 350 Intermediate Pistol, I did mostly better on my daytime indoor runs.
I did a much better job of breaking my eyes from the shoot/no shoot targets and focusing my eyes on my front sight and pressing the trigger, instead of jerking the snot out of it. I had a few lower-than-optimal shots—the simulators do intentionally add a significant degree of stress—but I didn’t have any misses, didn’t shoot any of the no-shoots, and made a head-shot through a hostage-taker’s right eye that I was, quite frankly, rather proud of.
I also broke my tunnel vision and cleared my windows so that Mrs. Owens wouldn’t be a widow.
My runs weren’t perfect, of course.
I didn’t engage one of the “shoot” targets initially because while the target was holding a revolver, it was pointed at the ground, not at me. It was only after the instructor clarified that for the purposes of the scenario that he was a threat that I engaged him with a controlled pair.
My footwork and angles also needed work. Instead of opening doors and quickly making distance down the long wall in case an aggressor popped out, I was guilty of “gaming” the run a bit, and taking fewer steps back that I probably should, and didn’t hug as tight to cover as I should. All in all, however, my daytime runs in the 350 Intermediate Pistol course were much improved when I compare them with what I accomplished in the 350 Pistol course. The added experience and training certainly paid off.
You can’t afford to get cocky, of course, and that was made amusingly clear as I tackled my nighttime simulator run and discovered that I found every possible way to fire every mode of my multi-function light. I low-lighted. I cooked targets with 500 lumens of tactical white hotness. I strobed myself silly.
It made for an interesting time, to put it mildly, but I was happy that my fundamentals held up through the distractions.
When I go back for 499 Advanced Pistol I’m going to make sure that I’ve carrying a very basic, very simple “on/off” single-function light.
All in all, I found the indoor simulator runs to be incredibly satisfying and highly educational.
The outdoor simulator runs?
We’ll discuss those soon enough…