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Firearms instructor Steve Eichelberger demonstrates the proper employment
of open sights as part of a handgun fundamentals course.
One. My left hand was on my stomach, my right on the back of the gun, hand around the grip, index finger laid along the slide. Two. I drew the gun, elbow cocked, pistol held close to the body, support hand still tight to my stomach. It was coming back now. The draw, the proper two-hand technique, the gun held close to the body, the front sight in focus.
There were two reasons I signed up for this training. One was to describe the fundamentals course from firsthand experience. But the real reason was because I knew I needed it. Many times over the last several years, I’ve heard a familiar refrain. “I just completed my concealed handgun license course.” Or, “I am looking for a pistol for home defense.” Or, “I just bought a new pistol for concealed carry.” What I don’t hear is a commitment to ongoing training. It is as if the procurement of the CHL or the pistol is the last thing to check off a very short list.
Firearms instructor Steve Eichelberger suggests the proper skill set and mindset includes three legs of the concealed handgun stool. The first leg is competence, which includes a knowledge of safety and the fundamentals of gun handling. The second leg is knowing whether it is justifiable to shoot in a self-defense or defense-of-property situation. The third leg is getting the concealed handgun license. With the right comes the responsibility, an ongoing commitment to handgun proficiency.
We met at the COSSA Park east of Bend on a chilly February day. Eichelberger went over each of the four safety rules, then talked about how we might handle an emergency if one should arise while we were shooting. Then he discussed shooting line etiquette — how to shoot with a group of people. He covered the five fundamentals of marksmanship then gave a visual explanation of how to employ open sights. We progressed from handling the blue safety gun to using my own Glock 19, still empty, in deliberate dry fire with attention to mental focus and using the trigger reset to full advantage. I had been through it all before, but I found small ways to change old habits, make transitions smoother.
Then it was time to practice the draw from holster in a four-point presentation that breaks down the action into four movements. One. Two. Three. Four. Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast. “Under stress,” Eichelberger reminded me, “we start to lose the ability to make small motor movements and we lose the ability to shoot well.”
Two hours into the three-hour class, Eichelberger had me load ammunition into two magazines. After a quick target session we transitioned to the proper employment of cover. Shooting from one side and then the other, changing magazines in the middle of the engagement, checking behind, right and left for additional threats, while minimizing the danger to bystanders.
It was almost a quarter of a century ago when I took the concealed handgun class. It was good to go back to the fundamentals. To learn it again. For three hours, I pretended I knew nothing and let the teacher start me off at square one again, help me do away with bad habits while forging down new neural pathways. There are various ways to train. Spend a day or a week with an instructor or at a facility, join a club, compete, plan it into a schedule. Hardware — a handgun, a flashlight, a holster, a safe — is important, but not as important as training. It all starts with the fundamentals.
Eichelberger keeps a list of the four safety rules and five fundamentals of
marksmanshipon the shooting line for quick reference. The tools at hand:
a box of ammunition, a blue gun and a Glock 19.
— Gary Lewis is the host of Frontier Unlimited TV and author of John Nosler — Going Ballistic, Fishing Mount Hood Country, Hunting Oregon and other titles.
Contact Gary at www.GaryLewisOutdoors.com