Citizens Defense Research Technical Handgun: Tests and Standards - July 27, 2019

Citizens Defense Research
Technical Handgun: Tests and Standards
John Johnston
July 27, 2019
East Bethel, MN
84, Sunny to mostly sunny all day
FN 509 with Dawson Precision fiber front/black rear sights, Phlster Classic holster, Federal American Eagle 124gr 9mm
Student Background:
I’ve been working a gun counter for roughly 2 and a half years, recently graduated from Pine Tech with a certificate in gunsmithing, farmer when I’m not selling guns. I spent 4 years as a Marine armorer. I attended Steve Fisher’s critical handgun close to 2 years ago, and I have taken Progressive Pistolcraft and Low Light Pistol Fundamentals from Craig Burris of Tactical Training Solutions local to me here in MN, as well as a course with Gander Mountain Academy but I don't want to talk about that.
My opportunity to attend this class came up last minute. Jon Hauptman from Phlster invited to sponsor me into the class a little over a week before hand and I was only able to fit one more personal range trip in before the class. On top of that I knew very little of what to expect from John Johnston. I just recently discovered the content that John has been creating through the Lucky Gunner videos and I had known of his podcast but had only listened to two episodes, so I had a limited idea of what to expect as far as personality and method.
As far as the background of the individual students it was largely civilian. There was one student that worked as a nuclear security contractor and a couple with a former LEO background, but no current LE or active military if I remember correctly. I knew a couple of the students through other classes I had attended and more from interactions with them at the shop I work at.

TD1 Morning:
The class started at 8 with John running through the medical brief, his take on the firearm safety rules, and his setting an expectation for the class. The first point he made clear was that this class would have basically no context. The focus of this class was on the “stupid human tricks of shooting well”. The class is there to build the students raw shooting ability. Not their ability to process situations or apply them to a situation.
His addressing of the general firearm safety rules were like others that I had encountered in that it sounded less like something that came from a drill instructor and something with more consideration for context, and I appreciated the efficient way that he summed them up.
1. “Handle all firearms according to circumstance and condition.” You wouldn’t want to put a hole in the wall of your home, but most of us dryfire in our house.
2. “Pick the safest direction for your muzzle given the situation, and the safest route for it to get there”.
3. “Pick an index point on the firearm as far away from the trigger as possible”
4. “Know your target, what is beyond it, what is between you and it, and what in your environment can change.”
5. “Prevent unauthorized access to your firearm.”
After the initial brief we moved to the line so that John could asses each shooter individually in dryfire. He cleared the line and directed us to work through dryfire presentations from the holster so that he could work down the line and assess where each student was at in their skill level and allow us to warm up. After ensuring that all the students had a safe presentation from the holster John started into his take on stance, grip, draw stroke, sight focus, recoil management, and trigger control. Most of his opinions are very much dependent on the individual and stay far away from dogma. “Should you be looking at the sights or the target? I don’t care I’m not you” very well sums up his approach. His approach to the stance was unique as compared to most that I have encountered however. John builds his stance to give him a base that best manages recoil, lowers his center of gravity to better stabilize his upper body, and places him in a posture that allows him the most efficient draw and presentation. He positions his feet in a wide stance with a long stride, weight placed centered over the feet with equal pressure placed on the feet attempting to “push the earth away” as he stated it. His torso is positioned in a strong upright posture that he uses to feed into an efficient grip on the firearm by adding tension to his lats instead of focusing on a crush grip using his hands and forearms. The stance is one that I plan on experimenting with more, but through the class I did find that it lent itself well to a very stable platform, and I was very pleased with the results I got from focusing on tensioning my shoulders and upper back as opposed to just relying on my hands. My hands weren’t nearly as sore or fatigued at the end of the day and I found my sights still tracked consistently and the gun returned to where I wanted it through my firing cycle.
Another valuable piece I took from his lecture on stance and presentation was what hand drives the gun out to extension. I have found in practice that if I am working speed I regularly end up pushing my gun to the left and the end of extension and had not found a remedy in my own training. John’s solution was to allow the nondominant hand to take over after your hands marry in front of you. I focused on using my left hand to finish driving the gun to the target and it made for a much more consistent presentation and it eliminated any deviation I had in the period between my hands meeting and finally breaking the shot.
It was over two hours before we finally made the line hot and shot our first live iteration. John took a lot of time to build the students familiarity with his method before having us execute live. He had warned that the initial part of the class could start to drag, but because of all the focus on all the pre-shot events I found that when we did go hot the material came together very quickly, as opposed to just wasting ammo while building a new skill. We started by shooting at the numbered circles on the pistol training Q target individually while John assessed our adoption of his stance and our manipulation of the trigger. We then moved into more reinforcement of the corrected stance shooting the other dots as a group.
We flowed into shooting several tests moving into the afternoon. We started shooting DAM. The course of fire is one shot on the 1 circle, ten shots on the 10 circle, two on 2 and so forth for time from 3 yards for time, with a miss adding one second. This drill was meant as a validation of the robustness of our shooting position with an emphasis more on not DQing (more than 9 misses) and is not meant to be run as a regular practice drill. I shot it in 64.29 with 4 misses for a total of 68.29. A great moment from this drill while John was demoing it was how he handled a miss. When he missed, instead of trying to solve it with speed, he broke his shot cadence for about .25 and reset his process. It wasn’t an exceptionally long time, but it was enough to restart his process and get his shooting back on track. He made note of that after he was done and on that he said “compounding an error doesn’t fix it”.
That was followed with the advanced super test. I made times but fell short of a passing score with a 264/300. I had two shots that I broke high above the target outside of the 8 ring. Portion of the class had a lot of god notes and nuggets that were conveyed, I think the biggest of which was “quit shows up in weird places”. The context to that was a student had flubbed his presentation and simply aborted the drill. John wanted to emphasize that we may not get a timeout to fix ourselves if we’re outside of a class setting, and I thought it was a very concise way to sum up a large portion of proper mindset, even though that wasn’t necessarily a part of this class.
From there we moved into a collection of further refinement, one handed shooting, and the final qual for the course that John has deemed “The Test With No Name”. Like many good instructors, John has a number of concepts summed up into one bites sized chunk that help to correctly orient a student to a task or problem. “What changes about shooting one handed? Nothing.” John doesn’t do any crazy modifications to his stance or the position of the gun in space, he just removes one hand from the gun. I found that, while I still can’t shoot left handed with any degree of success, I sucked less by not dramatically modifying my stance, grip, or posture. The final qual, The Test With No Name, is a really well balanced test. It forces the student to really put effort into managing the throttle on their shooting. I didn’t annotate my time for my first run, but it doesn’t really matter. My second run I failed to confirm how many rounds I had in my gun and went empty during the drill. John let me shoot it a third time but not for score.
The class wrapped up with a sort of round table discussion between the students and John as a debrief for what they learned and discovered about their shooting, their feelings on the information presented and how it related to their current method, and where their headspace and orientation was in relation to their shooting performance. There was a good discussion about emotional control as it relates to the shot process. John relayed a time that Pat Rogers told him “Pressure is and internal emotion” as they were standing outside of a shoot house before John executed his run. Maybe I’m giving to much weight to that quote, but as it relates to the physical act of shooting there aren’t really going to be many times where the outcome of our performance is directly related to any real significant result. Yes, there is everyone’s favorite default of the shoot out in the parking garage where life and death hang in the balance, but even then, there will only be as much pressure there as we put on ourselves. If you listen to many of your national level shooters a good performance is best produced when the process is the goal and emotion is properly kept in check. When the shooter caves to the pressure and tries to force out a good performance that is rarely the outcome.
John’s discovery style of teaching, as opposed to just “instructing”, made the class feel extremely content dense. While only being a one-day class, it left me with many notes and lots of information to meditate on. I appreciated the focus being purely on shooting. It cut out the distractions of “real world” application, fighting mind set, and all the other portions of other pistol classes. Not that those topics aren’t important, it was just nice to have a class focused purely on “stupid human tricks”. The other portion of John’s class that I really appreciated was his almost cheerleader like level of encouragement. I don’t know how that statement might be received by the meat eaters at large, but I really appreciated the positive learning environment that John created. Not that the other instructors I have trained with didn’t, but it was a conscious objective for John to develop that spirit in the class. Overall, I was very pleased with the class and was really surprised at how much I had to take away with one day of class. John’s Test With No Name does have a coin associated with it and that will become a grail of mine to achieve. I look forward to training with John again in the future and would undoubtedly recommend taking his class.