Last week I had the awesome opportunity to attend an NRA Carry Guard Training down in Dallas, TX with a great group of women. If you’re not familiar with the NRA Carry Guard training, it's a program designed to be the “gold standard in concealed carry training to prepare responsible citizens who legally carry to effectively confront today’s evolving conflict environment.”
While I don't have much experience with formal style group training classes like this, my first impression is that their gold standard is spot on. Myself along with ten other women of varying shooting levels and backgrounds attended three days of training led by an amazing team of instructors.
Our instructors, Jeff Houston, Eddie Penney, and Eric Frohardt were amazing. It can be a bit intimidating knowing that you are taking classes taught by former special ops guys but they put us at ease immediately. They were super nice, patient, funny, and a pleasure to train with. They encouraged and pushed us to get out of our comfort zones while also critiquing and providing us with helpful tips and feedback to improve our shooting. They were thorough and we covered a decent amount of ground over those three days. While we had time to laugh, joke around, and chat like us ladies love to do, they also were good about reeling us back in and getting us focused for the upcoming drill. I honestly feel a bit spoiled having them as instructors because they have set the bar high.
We shot around 850+/- rounds. The most I've ever shot in a consecutive period of time. My HKVP9 was getting worked. With my 10-round magazine limit (thanks DC), I felt like I was changing mags so much. I'm glad I bought two extra mags to bring with me. Between my five mags I was able to get those mag change reps in.
Each day brought us a different challenge. It was a good mix of moving and shooting, shooting from cover, and shooting at varying distances. We also learned how to shoot while maneuvering our carry flashlights. All things that I haven't ever done before. The course was laid out in what I thought was a nice progression of drills. We were introduced to kneeling while drawing then moved to taking steps forward, backward, and side to side while drawing. Then progressed to walking towards the target and then away. It was all at a manageable pace. There was also a good set of stationary drills at farther distances that definitely proved to be something that I need to work on (among other things). One of my favorite drills was learning to shoot with our carry flashlights as it required shooting with our dominant hand while using the flashlight with our opposite. Simultaneously drawing both items from concealment then adding in a mag change required coordination and a bit of finesse. It was a lot going on in that moment but I think I handled it well.
Our drills were done starting from varying drawing positions. We started some from the low-ready then drawing from concealment inside-the-waistband (IWB) to predominantly drawing from concealment outside-the-waistband (OWB). I will say this, I could get used to the OWB life. Prior to this training I only had one OWB holster that I bought when I first got my HKVP9. I used it for concealed carry permit class and that’s about it. I didn’t love it and never really felt the need to get a new one until now. I went with an OWB rig from StealthGearUSA (belt, hoslter, and mag carrier). I use and love their holsters for my appendix carry so it was bit of no-brainer choice for this. I couldn’t help myself and had to go with the grey urban camo - I mean it's even better in real-life. A girls gotta look cute too, right?! I wanted to make sure I got in a few test runs with this holsters before heading down to Dallas. I knew we would be running a ton of drills and didn't want to introduce any potential obstacles that might impede or cause worry on my part. Aside of loosening up the retention a little bit after my first few trial reps, I was good to go. I had no issues during training and importantly it was comfortable wearing it all day. It’s the first time I’ve ever been all loaded up like this around my waist. Carrying my loaded full-size firearm, two loaded mags holstered, and two more loaded mags in my back pocket. I was never annoyed by the weight or holsters. I’m a pretty big fan of this set-up. I might need to move to an open carry state. :)
On the last day of training we got to participate in different scenario drills using simunition ammo (non-lethal ammo). These are always fun. It really puts you to the test and allows you to see how you would react to a situation and how others would as well. There is so much that can be learned from this type of training. We also had some amazing “actors” that filled in and they took their role seriously. These were learning moments mixed with hilarious acting. One of the things I took away from my scenario was just how easily your brain switches gears and reacts to your surroundings. In my scenario, a guy was holding up/robbing patrons of a restaurant. He yelled for us to keep our hands on the table and I was to draw my concealed weapon and shoot, if I was able. The scenario after mine was somewhat similar but as a viewer, I noticed and heard that one of the actors (Bree) was screaming frantically and rather loudly. After that scenario completed, I asked Bree if she was screaming like that during my scenario and she was. What was interesting is that in the moments of my scenario when I was being held up, I didn’t even hear her screaming and she was just an arm’s length away. After talking to Bree and Eddie about this, they informed me that it’s called auditory exclusion; a form of tunnel vision. It was cool to experience that and in case you were wondering, I nailed my scenario. I was able to blade my body away from the assailant so I could covertly draw my firearm and he went down for the count.
To close out the training, we ended day three with a qualifying 50-round course of fire “test” so-to-speak. Maybe a challenge is a better term. There were 13-time based drills that tested our speed and accuracy at different distances that incorporated many of the techniques we learned over the course of the training. While I didn’t do as well as I would have liked, I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and came away with a positive experience.
In all honesty, I was a bit nervous going into this training because it was deemed ‘intermediate’ and I know that I’m not an intermediate level shooter. I still have some issues that I’m working through to improve my target placement. My groupings are usually good but not where they need to be. It was great to have the instructors provide me with tips that I was able to apply immediately and can practice on my own. But it was not only the instructors that were helpful to all of us, we were all helpful to each other. What I love about training together like this is that everyone has a technique that works for them for a specific skill. Being able to have someone else articulate how I need to adjust something with my grip, trigger pull, or sight alignment was invaluable. For so long, I kept making adjustments during my own training that never really seemed to pay off. So while I didn’t necessarily have bad habits ingrained, I do have areas that need improvement.
This class pushed me and took me out of my comfort zone. I think that is important for personal growth. You have to be constantly learning and pushing yourself. I have takeaways that I can apply to my own training and I feel that’s what a good training course will provide. Getting good reps in but also showing you where you need to improve. I’m excited and eager to work on my shooting and take my training to the next level.
It was a great three days with a great group of women. We supported each other, motivated, uplifted and pushed each other to do better, laughed, and all around had a great time. I got see to old friends and make new ones. I'm so thankful for the opportunity to train with these instructors and with these women at my side. One of my goals this year is to get back and focus on my training. These last few months when I didn't get to the range as much really showed. Having the mindset and positive attitude when the shots don't seem to be going where I want is part of progressing. Having opportunities to train with instructors and more experienced shooters offer an invaluable fresh perspective. Training is such an important part of this lifestyle and I hope that you also challenge yourself this year to become a better shooter.
Photos by NRA Carry Guard