Varg Freeborn Street Defense AAR, May 18-19 2019

danno762

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Varg Freeborn, Street Defense class AAR


Location/Date: Impact Shooting Center, Cleves, OH (Near Cincinnati) May 18-19, 2019. Facility is a hot range and members-only except for classes.

Equipment Details: Primary pistol: Glock 19 Gen 4, ATEi milled for RM06 RMR Type 2, Ameriglo GL-191 i-Dot tritium white outline suppressor sights. Gen 5 barrel. Overwatch Tac trigger, dot connector, 6lb trigger spring, 5lb striker spring, rounded striker safety and reduced power striker safety spring. Utilitarian DIY stippling. Surfire X300U. Used 2 Glock OEM 15 rd magazines and a mix of 15 and 17 round Magpul magazines. Used 6-7 mags in rotation, had plenty of time to load magazines. Backup RM06 Type 1 RMR in range bag. Backup RMR’d Glock 26 in car. Sight pusher and assortment of glock parts in car.

Volund Gearworks Aesir belt w/cobra buckle. Phlster Spotlight at 12-12:30. JM Custom Kydex AIWB High-Ride Single Pistol Mag pouch at 11:30 (normal EDC). Raven Concealment Phantom single mag pouch at 9 o’clock for range mag carry. Additional range mags carried in rear pockets.

Attire:

Both days I wore Wrangler cargo shorts, Merrel shoes and a synthetic hiking type button-down, a normal summer outfit for me. Others wore mostly jeans and t-shirts or polos. Day 1 was forecast ~86º and sunny, so I wanted to dress for the heat. Day 2 was ~80º with rain forecast. Remembered to apply sunscreen both days and did not get any sunburn. Tried sunscreen in a deodorant stick form factor and it worked.

Ear pro: Howard Leight Impact Sport with Noisefighters glasses-cut gel ear cups.

Eye pro: Wear regular eyeglasses, so needed Over the Lens ballistic eye pro. Previously have used Crews LAW over the glasses eyepro, but had issues with fogging and the glasses squeegeeing sweat out of my eyebrows. For this class used Champion Over-Spec Ballistic Glasses Clear, Z87+ rated. Treated with Cat Crap and had no fogging or sweat issues.

Hat: Old Magpul skull trucker cap, specifically because it doesn’t have the button on top and is more comfy with ear pro.


Food/drink:

Coffee and light breakfast. Made a sandwich for lunch both days, easily prepared the night before and no heating required. Range classroom building had a refrigerator.

Brought a small cooler with 6 16oz bottles of water (2 frozen overnight) and 4 bottles of BodyArmor sports drink, two regular and two low calorie. Due to heat wound up drinking all 4 BodyArmors and several water bottles during afternoon range time, never felt more than minor heat stress though I also work outside about 50% of the time in same climate.

Personal Experience:

Me: 36 year old civilian, non Mil/LEO. CCW carrier for ~15 years, taken OH & KY CCW classes. Self-guided primarily handgun shooter who has sought information from books, forums, DVDs and youtube videos after instruction from family members as a youth. Previously attended a 2 day Suarez Tactical Medicine course which had a Force on Force element. Deer gun hunter for last 7 years. Shoot in the 90’s on B8s at 25yd slow fire. Dry fire irregularly. Shoot occasional local club steel matches.

Preparation Drills:

A few days before class had a range day to change RMR battery, confirm function and zero of weapon and be fresher on the gun for class.

Class Demographics:

Class of 15-16 students, all civilian. 4 of those were range owners/hosts or people affiliated with the facility. Remainder of students varied in experience from shooters and competitors who’ve attended multiple weekend training classes to several who were new shooters with little experience. Two women attended the class, both of whom are affiliated with the range. Students traveled from at least West Virginia, mid-Ohio, Indianapolis and Chicago.

Training Day 1 (TD1) Morning:

Class description requested arrival at 8:30 for in seats at 8:50, when I arrived a few minutes before 8:30 I was nearly the last to arrive. Varg commented that we all arrived early and that people’s arrival times vary greatly by region.

Once everyone was settled in class we went around the room and introduced ourselves, gave a little background and commented on why we were taking the class. My reason was that I wanted to learn from someone with real world experience in what he is teaching, and in the US criminal violence lane Varg is pretty well qualified…among “good guys” anyway. Over half the class had read or was in process of reading Varg’s book, Violence of Mind.

Day 1 morning was devoted to mindset lecture/discussion. For those who’ve read Violence of Mind many of the topics were familiar. Defining one’s mission was at the top of the agenda, with the US civilian mission generally being Make It Home, in all ways, physical, financial, social, etc. Just winning the fight may not be enough. The progression of learning Skills, then Techniques, then Procedures was next up. Varg explained what he calls your Orientation; made up of your attachments, cultural inputs, selective valuation of human life and your confidence level. As for “mindset” itself, Varg defines a combat mindset as “extreme self control under all conditions”. He walked the class through the stabbing which led to his prison term, which while I had read about it, hearing it first hand and seeing him relive it was powerful. This led to a discussion on the social acceptability of gun vs knife use in self defense and ensuring that the things you train to do fall within legal use of force (this would come up later on the range). This is a short synopsis, the 2.5 hr classroom portion felt more like an outline of important topics each of which could be it’s own class.

About 11:30 we took a short break and moved to the range for dry work and assessment of the class. Started with gun safety rules, safety brief and med brief/response plan. Dry work included range commands, getting on line with each other on the firing line, drawing and reholstering considerations, practicing positions up, high ready, low ready and working on muzzle awareness and movement with an unholstered pistol. Most of the class had little issue with this portion but a few students required extra attention. Even in this 1hr block of instruction we needed to keep hydrated and took shade breaks as the temp was about 85 and direct sun. Broke for lunch about 12:30-12:45. Varg prefers the sweltering heat of Florida so he happily stayed in the sun.

TD1 Afternoon:

30 minute lunch break, most people brought their lunch. One couple went to the only close by fast food joint, Wendys. Discussion and Q&A continued through lunch.

Live fire portion started with a repeat of the safety/med brief. First live fire was a basic qual on an ~8” circle starting at 3yds and moving back to 20. No time limit. One young man kept them all in about a 3” group. The rest of us had less optimal groups, I think I had one outside the circle, some had more out than in. Varg moved us through shooting smaller targets and then a line drill, pretty much everyone’s groups shrank. He pointed out that we’d just shown we could shoot better than the qual and that some of us were being lazy. I liked that he was willing to say that, because he was right. I can and regularly do shoot much better than that qual (and put the targets on the ‘gram, so it must’ve happened), I definitely did not give 100% initially.

The live fire qual led to a discussion on quality gear and holster safety when a gentleman was having issues safely reholstering his military surplus pistol in a 4 o’clock IWB hybrid holster. This pistol subsequently broke and he continued the class with a loaner Glock and OWB holster.

The value of having sufficient number of magazines for class was shown during several drills when a student shooting a single stack Glock who only had two magazines would have to call out that he needed to jam mags and the firing line would be delayed waiting for him.

At the end of day one on the range Varg asked us for feedback on the day. I said I was glad he called us out for being lazy. The discussion moved to mindset once more and we were encouraged to take a holistic view to mindset, to be better in all ways, not just better at shooting and fighting and being ready to throw down. He called this the 500ft view, like you’re seeing things from 500ft up so you see more of the big picture. We were also nearly admonished not to let our lives be consumed by this bullshit. Go out and experience things and live your life.

Overnight:

I’m local to this range so I drove to and from my home for class each day. On the way home after the first day I did stop at the grocery and stock up on BodyArmor hydration drinks for the next day since I had drank my weekend allotment on Saturday.

TD2 Morning:

Class reconvened 8:30 Sunday morning. There was rain or storms forecast for the afternoon. We were down 1 due to one student electing not to return Sunday due to heat & performance issues. Another student who’d had performance issues on Saturday returned but asked to simply watch on Sunday. He said he didn’t want to hold the class back. I respected him for that and the ability to see that and make that call. He also helped put up new targets between drills which did not go unnoticed.

We moved straight to the range this morning, and after the class stowed all weapons, we worked on footwork and force production by doing a push-pull drill. Varg demonstrated his fighting footwork technique and to move the foot in the direction you want to move first for stability, never bringing the feet all the way together. He also explained angles of stability and weakness in relation to foot position. For the push pull drill pairs of students put their hands on each other’s shoulders and attempted to push each other off-line and backward. I have not previously done any martial arts training so this was new and valuable material for me. It was also physical exertion in a manner I’m not accustomed to and after we had done several rounds of push-pull drills I specifically remember thinking I needed to work on my conditioning.

After the push-pull drills, Varg demonstrated slipping under someone’s right arm from the hands on shoulders position and some of the various things that could be done from that position. We then practiced that with our partners and found he made it look easier than it was for many of us. We were cautioned if we didn’t complete the move successfully or quickly enough our opponent could simply sprawl on us and we’d end up on the ground post haste.

Following the footwork and hands-on portion of the class, and a review of the medical brief/plan, we worked on close quarters point shooting at 3-5’ and transitioning up to using sights. Varg taught an elbow-pinned-to-ribcage technique rather than the pectoral index and offside elbow up often seen. He prefers elbow pinned for strength should someone grab the arm. During close quarters shooting was where the topic of ensuring your training is staying within your legal use of force arose. Why are you shooting this person? If they’re armed at 3ft, fast chest shots won’t end the fight before you get stabbed/shot. If they’re unarmed, why are you shooting an unarmed person?

Next up was shooting around corners. Varg first walked through the technique with a blue gun so the class could be “downrange” and see differences in exposed body parts as technique varied. We used plywood barriers to simulate walls. Everyone in class had an opportunity to shoot around the barrier and only one person shot the barrier, which he then had to sign as is range policy. After the live shooting portion a great discussion was had comparing Varg’s preferred technique vs techniques people had been taught in other classes. It was good to see the class slow down and dive into this point and compare/contrast the various techniques.

TD2 Afternoon:

After lunch we did a live fire decision making exercise. Only one person at a time went to the active shooting bay so it was a surprise for each person. We were put at about 5 yards from 4 targets. We started facing up range and were told to turn and engage any threats with 4 rounds to the body (8x11 paper) and one to the head (index card). Each target had on it a hand holding either a cell phone or a gun. Everyone received a different scenario which made for an interesting time hearing a few or a lot of shots as different people cycled through. For my run, I turned and drew to low ready, looked down the line and saw four hands holding cell phones. No rounds required. Looked at Varg and he told me to holster up. In discussion with other students while waiting for everyone to finish, some who had more competition experience defaulted to the rehearsed behavior of turning and engaging targets and shot targets holding the cell phone. Full disclosure: The phone/gun in hand targets Varg had intended to use were unavailable, and since I was local I offered to print phone/gun targets overnight Saturday for use on Sunday, so I knew what the targets looked like beforehand.

Class Debrief:

Day 2 range time was cut short a bit as it had started to rain a bit and the radar showed storms inbound. After the exercise we switched back to carry ammo (hot range), took range bags to cars and returned to the classroom for Q&A and discussion. Everyone talked about what they liked and didn’t like about the class. Though the class was listed as a 600rd class and we shot maybe half that much, no one voiced displeasure at not shooting enough. A couple people, myself included, mentioned they liked that Varg called us out for being lazy after we showed greater skill than our qualifier demonstrated. Multiple students praised the mindset info both from the first morning and interspersed through the class. Varg encouraged the class to pursue Force on Force or shoothouse classes to help develop procedural level ability, i.e. actually doing things and making decisions while using a firearm.

Takeaway & Commentary:

Several times during the class I thought “this class is about all the stuff nobody talks about” i.e. not just marksmanship and gun handling. This isn’t a “shooting” class, it’s a class around the considerations of the civilian gunfighter/concealed carrier in the current US context. This class’s experience-based mindset discussion, legal considerations past letter-of-the-law, and a greater emphasis on physical training and hand to hand skills make it very relevant for any civilian carrying a firearm for self defense in the US.

This class has no prerequisites… However, if you are a new shooter who is seeking training (thank you!!), you will get more out of this class, and help the class progress to more advanced content, by having a greater base of knowledge when you enter the class. Previously attending a local range class or clinic or getting some 1 on 1 instruction to level up your range safety and gun handling helps everyone.
 

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