Last weekend I had the opportunity to take a two day pistol class with Tim Herron. Especially since Tim is a newer instructor, I wanted to take the opportunity to write up an AAR for others looking to train with Tim.
Location: Lee-Kay Center in Salt Lake City
Class Make-up. We had a total of 11 students with a wide range of backgrounds. There was everyone from those almost new to competition shooting to M and GM level shooters. Some were serious into competition and some were more from the ‘tactical’ side looking to get into competition. The class had two women and nine men, equipment ranged from one carry optics Sig X-Five with a Deltapoint pro, a CZ Shadow 2 production gun, a few single stacks in 9mm and 45, and a mix of limited guns from CZ, STI, as well as the obligatory Glocks. Also there was one sort of strange guy shooting a sig 226 in limited, but we won’t talk much about him. All-in-all, safety was not an issue during the class, and generally equipment ran pretty well. There were a few malfunctions and light strikes, but nothing so habitual as to impact learning.
Weather: It was very hot as summer in the desert would be expected to be. Luckily we had shade and a lot of fluids. One note: prepare for the weather! Rain, heat, snow, wind, etc. all brings unique challenges, and preparing beforehand by bringing the proper equipment and clothing turns a miserable weekend into a learning environment.
Day 1: We began the morning with a quick introduction, and Tim wanted to hear from everyone what we specifically were looking for in the class. You can tell that although his is newer to officially teaching classes, he is very comfortable with the material, and he is absolutely not just going through a rote presentation. The first rounds fired for the day was on a 32 round field course. Tim wanted a chance to see everyone in a match setting, as if you were shooting the first stage of a match. He was keeping notes on each shooter to provide specific individual feedback for every person. After the stage was finished, we returned to the shade to break down our performance and identify issues to work on throughout the weekend. From this first review, I could tell that Tim has a tremendous diagnostic ability that is complemented by a skill in explanation as well. I got specific recommendations to increase my personal performance, and that is such a refreshing addition to any class.
After the stage breakdown, we went over a bay to a line of USPSA targets to work on fundamentals. We began by shooting some groups to verify sights, and weed out any trigger issues. Tim explains the need for this portion of the class well. Fundamentals are the foundation, and it is difficult to move on to other skills if you do not have the confidence or ability to hit the target. We quickly progressed to a few drills to diagnose our grip. This was a phenomenal part of the class that completely changed the way I view gripping the gun, and I am now working on some tweaks to my personal grip that are already yielding better results. Once again Tim was addressing each individual student, and giving personal feedback. After grip (which I would say is a key skill that Tim both places a lot of emphasis on and is also very adept at teaching), we moved on to transitions, something that I would say is Tim’s primary focus in the class. Transitions would be a theme for the remainder of the class. We put transitions on the timer, and Tim showed us how everyone (even many GMs) are leaving loads of time on a stage by not transitioning efficiently. In summary, like the grip block of instruction, transitions were also such a valuable lesson, and Tim has effective drills and feedback to help you improve. A note about demos. Tim was always willing to demo anything he was teaching. He explained that he wouldn’t just demo something just to do it, but if anyone was unclear about the drill he always could step up and perform if asked. I get that sometimes you can have good teachers who can’t do what they are getting others to, however especially with Tim currently competition at such a high level, it would be expected that he could do what he is teaching, and he most definitely can. There is no armchair quarterbacking here.
Day 2: Another note on the instruction quality here. We started the day with Tim asking for feedback on the class. Not in a rote, “I have to do this because it’s what good teachers do” way, but in a genuine way looking for ways to improve himself as an instructor. This happened more than once during the class, and I noticed him immediately incorporating valid suggestions on the fly. While transitions on day one were focused mostly from target to target while standing still, we now began to incorporate target transitions while on the move. You can probably find video of Tim running the same drills we were doing in the class online. There were so many nuggets in the class, and I don’t want to replay the entire class here, but one specific line Tim said is an example of many such insights and thoughts that came up throughout the class. Tim told us to view each array of targets as a single target. You don’t view them as 1-2, 1-2, 1-2, etc., but see a three target array as a single six shot target. It helps prevent your brain dividing the shots up subconsciously and adding pauses between them.
As a side note about the class generally, but it came up here specifically during our class. When it came down to it, Tim was very confident and assertive that the material he was using has real benefit and will increase your performance. There were several times during the class that students would ask what the purpose of a drill was, or why what we were learning mattered. This would prompt an in-depth, thoughtful answer, and many times a good discussion among the class, or a few people, and Tim as he would explain the rationale behind what we were doing. I think that is a critical point to emphasize about the class and Tim as an instructor specifically; at the core Tim really does know what he is doing, and can articulate the why behind everything done in the class. Sometimes while on a line you get the idea that material is being covered ‘just because’ it is what you do in a class. Not so here. In a competition-centered class, and especially when you have high-level shooters attending, they want results.
During the class we all shot our stage from day one three times. We also broke down a couple individual sections of the stage to practice specific skills highlighted by that specific section. After all the drills and practice on day two, the final shots we all took were running through the entire stage a final time. After that, like the morning of day one, we went back and discussed each person’s run and the change from Day 1 AM to Day 2 PM. Everyone had improved their score, some quite substantially. The best part for me was everyone had their own skill improvement. Some were more assertive moving with a gun in their hand. some had better stage plans. Some shot a more aggressive plan that they were now confident they could execute. Transitions were stronger, accuracy generally went up, and times came down. We finished with some final feedback, and Tim promised an e-mail follow-up for each student to highlight skills we should focus on, and how to use the class to continue to improve. Many times Tim told us not to hesitate in reaching out with questions or concerns. That sort of support after the class is refreshing.
As anyone who knows Tim can tell you, he is genuinely a very nice, approachable guy. He made the class a very enjoyable experience, while also keeping it a learning environment, and not just a vacation. He was open to feedback or criticism, and ran the class based on the needs of the students, not just running through a curriculum. I have been to plenty of classes, and I can confidently say that Tim is one of the best at diagnostics out there. I have heard he does local classes in conjunction with matches. If you live in his area, want to get better, and don’t go to those, you are crazy. It sounds like Robert will be hosting Tim again next year in Salt Lake, and I will most definitely be there. I’m sure this AAR comes off as a brown-nosing extravaganza, but I believe it is for good reason. Tim provides a phenomenal product at a very reasonable price, and the results speak for themselves. If I would leave any constructive criticism for the class, it would be spending some time at the beginning to have a medical plan outlined. It’s not a fun topic, and nobody wants to think about the accidents that can happen, but better to have everyone on the same page should something happen than trying to solve a problem in the moment.
Final Note: some people might be reading this and wondering if the class would be worthwhile for the ‘tactical’ shooter who has little or no interest in competition. First off, listen to the P&S modcast about competition and reconsider the utility of competition. Second, I believe that while the class is competition-centric, the pistol performance aspect is universal. Becoming comfortable shooting faster and at a higher level than you currently are is valuable for everyone. Also, if you mention to Tim at the beginning of class what your intended goals for the class are, he will be sure to tailor his suggestions and feedback to you around those goals. Plus, if I can get Tim to name his class “Tactical Urban Grandmaster” then it should about cover the bases.