View Full Version : AAR of Louis Awerbuck Tactical Handgun Class

August 5, 2006, 06:27 PM
AAR for YFA Tactical Handgun Stage One class -- Racine, Wis 28-29-30 July 2006

In late July I attended a Tactical Handgun Class instructed by Louis Awerbuck of the Yavapai Firearms Academy. The class was hosted by Jeff Whisler of Triad Consulting, and conducted at the Racine County Line Rifle Club, south of Racine, Wisconsin.

The RCLRC range was originally built by the Army during World War II. The Army still owns the land, and the RCLRC administers the property. National Guard and Reserve units have first call on the use of the ranges for handgun & rifle training, and many of the local police departments also conduct training there. (I shot there at least once in the 1980s when I was an MP in the ARNG and have fired in competitions there a couple of times). The eastern edge of the range property is the Lake Michigan shore, and all weekend we had a breeze blowing in off the lake, which was greatly appreciated, because the temperature was in the upper 90s and the heat index over 100 all three days.

Louis Awerbuck is a native of South Africa and did his military service in a special forces unit in the South African Defense Force before emigrating to the United States. He worked for a time at Gunsite under Col. Jeff Cooper and was Chief Rangemaster there when he left in 1987 to found his own business, the Yavapai Firearms Academy. He has written the books Hit or Myth: An analysis of practical range training for street preparedness, Tactical Reality: An Uncommon Look at Common-Sense Firearms Training and Tactics.,
More Tactical Reality:. Why There's No Such Thing as an "Advanced" Gunfight , and Defensive Shotgun: Tactics & Techniques and has also produced several video tapes. He writes regularly for SWAT magazine and in the past has written for Soldier of Fortune and other gun magazines. (My personal favorite book was Tactical Reality )

We had 10 people in the class, of whom 3 were cops and the other 7 private citizens. 4 members of the class had some previous experience in IPSC shooting and 4 members of the class had attended training from other traveling instructors (all of that group had attended at least one class taught by John Farnam).

Various models of the Glock pistol were the most popular choices of sidearm. There was also a Sig DAK, an elderly Browning High Power, a Springfield XD, a Ruger auto pistol and a custom .45 from gunsmith John Jardine.

In his basic class, Awerbuck instructs those particular topics and techniques that are a high priority for defensive use. Most of the shooting was done at 5, 7 and 10 yards distance. We did a lot of lateral movement, and also retreating from and advancing toward the targets. Weapons were tac-loaded with a fresh magazine and press-checked at the end of every string of fire, to get the students familiar with getting the guns "topped off" and making sure there was a round in the chamber and the weapon ready to go before reholstering.

We also covered shooting from various types of kneeling position, types of reloads (speed reload & tactical reload), and malfunction clearances. He discussed and demonstrated various flashlight assisted shooting positions but we didn't actually shoot in low light because it didn't actually get dark enough to require a flashlight until after 9 o'clock in the evening. Louis also did a block of instruction on the use of back-up weapons, and those students who had multiple weapons had an opportunity to participate in several shooting drills requiring the deployment of the back-up guns from concealment.

We did all the shooting on YFA's proprietary silhouette target, available from www.speedwelltargets.com. (click on the "professional combat" target icon on the left tool bar to find them). The YFA target is done in tan disruptive-pattern camo with primary scoring zones in the head, upper chest, and pelvis. The target is printed on heavy card stock, and has reduced rifle and sight-in targets on the back.

From the second day on, the YFA targets were mounted at unusual angles relative to the shooter, and also stapled to the cardboard target backer in such a way that they were arched, somewhat simulating the shape of a human torso. Louis spent some time discussing target angles, and where on a human the shot would have to be placed to get it into the vital organs, depending on the position of the target. I found this part of the training to be very interesting.
Louis stressed the high degree of accuracy needed to actually get an incapacitating hit on the street in a real gunfight.

 The target area on the human head is about 6 inches by 6 inches. From the front, aim for the cranio-occular cavity -- the eye sockets are the best place. Aiming at the forehead may result in the bullet skipping off or not penetrating the skull. From the side, try to put the bullet into the ear canal.
 Adult males are about 19 inches tall from shoulder to waist
 Adult females are about 14 inches tall from shoulder to waist.
 The major difference in height between people is in the length of their legs.
 The width of the adult body nipple to nipple is 8 or 9 inches.
 If the target is standing sideways/bladed to you, the vital area may only be 3 or 4 inches wide, depending upon the angle.

When practicing defensive shooting on the range, strive for a 4 inch group. If the group is bigger than that, slow down and concentrate on your sights and trigger. If the group is smaller than that, speed up -- you're probably going too slow.

One of the interesting aspects of the course was the use of "negative targets". Irregular size holes were cut at various places on the cardboard target backers, and for a series of drills we were directed to shoot AT THE HOLE. That sounds pretty simple, but it's harder than it looks. It's also a good way to help diagnose shooters with a trigger jerk, or those who are "bucking" or "milking" the grip of the pistol at the moment it fires, because the errant shot is easy to find on the cardboard.

On the afternoon of day 3 we had an opportunity to shoot in several exercises on the mirage target system. (to see pictures and a description of the mirage target system, go to www.yfainc.com and click on the "mirage target" icon on the left). In this case, the target had two plastic humanoid targets, dressed in T-Shirt and baseball hat, surrounded by "no shoot" targets. The targets can be manipulated to pivot around in a circle and back and forth, and they're also mounted on springs, to give movement in multiple directions. In the exercises we ran, one target was designated as a "no shoot" and the other as the suspect, a situation requiring deadly force was stipulated, and only a headshot on the hostile target would work to end the problem. Consistent with safety and the limitations of the backstop, we had some limited ability to move forward or laterally to get a proper angle to take a shot on the target as it was moving.

Shooting at the mirage target was very interesting -- you had to track a moving target with your sights, be aware of the angles to get a good shot, and aware of the location of a bunch of "no-shoot" targets, one of which was also moving. (I particularly enjoyed this part of the training -- Louis had described the prototype version of the mirage target in his book Hit or Myth which came out in 1991, and I've been waiting since then to get a chance to shoot on the mirage target system in a class)

Louis stressed the importance of PROPER FOLLOW THROUGH during all exercises during the class. He feels that proper follow through is probably the most neglected fundamental of good shooting.

I've taken a variety of different classes from different instructors over the last 25 years. Most everybody teaches the basics in a similar way, but they all prioritize things in a different way, teach different variations in technique and run different kinds of exercises. I really enjoyed the YFA tactical handgun class and hope to take more handgun & carbine training with Louis Awerbuck in the future.

August 5, 2006, 06:29 PM
"This is a basic class. I teach what I perceive to be the primary skills that you need to survive a confrontation. In an "advanced" class we polish the basic skills, teach some new skills, and have more challenging and complicated tactical exercises. That's the difference between the "basic" and "advanced" classes. There's no such thing as an "advanced" gunfight. We break the classes up that way so students know what to expect, but the reality is, the secret to "survival" in any gunfight is the performance of basic skills at a high level." --Louis Awerbuck/07-28-2006

"I'll train you with the methods that I believe work best. If you have another technique that works for you, and it's safe, you go ahead and use it. It's not MY gunfight. It's YOUR gunfight. You select the techniques that work best for you. Whatever you do HAS to work. Everytime." --Louis Awerbuck

"Skill with a handgun deteriorates very quickly. Once your basic skills are well developed, you can probably go about three months and then pick up a shotgun or a rifle or a carbine and still shoot reasonably well. With a handgun, if you go three weeks or a month without shooting, you will probably find that your skills have deteriorated, at least a little bit. Frequency and quality of your practice is more important than how many rounds you fire." --Louis Awerbuck

"I don't care what kind of gun you have or what caliber it is or what kind of special magic bullets you load it with. Those things don't really matter all that much. Your weapon has to be reliable and you have to hit the target. You have to hit the target." --Louis Awerbuck

"If you are instructing, don't over-coach your students. It's too distracting for them. Point out one thing to them and then leave them alone for a while to work it out." --Louis Awerbuck

"Shooting IPSC or IDPA matches is fine. It can be a lot of fun. Just remember, those targets have A zones and B zones and C zones and D zones. On the street, there is only the A zone. Train yourself to be accurate. Accuracy is more important than pure speed. You have to hit the target." --Louis Awerbuck

"When instructing a basic class, I don't believe in flogging the students to death. Do some dry drills, do some live fire drills, and then press on to the next thing. If you do too many repetitions, your students will lose focus and you may have some issues with safety because they're getting tired." --Louis Awerbuck

"We all like to shoot a lot. In reality, if you could shoot 50 rounds with your handgun in quality practice on a good practice drill every other week or so, that would be about enough to keep your hand in."
--Louis Awerbuck/07-30-2006

"None of us have all the money that we'd like to have. However, life is too precious and too short to risk it using cheap ammo to defend yourself." --Louis Awerbuck

"I like to carry auto pistols with a big magazine capacity. I like them to have lots of bullets. If you have small hands, a handgun with a high capacity magazine will probably be too big for your use. It will be too big for your hand and you won't be able to work the trigger properly." --Louis Awerbuck

"Never under-estimate the power of luck and good fortune. Gunfights are very dangerous. Once the bullets start flying, anything can happen. You can do everything right and still get killed. The best way to "win" a gunfight is to avoid being in one in the first place."
--Louis Awerbuck

"For the private citizen, the key to survival is being aware, being prepared, and preventing or avoiding dangerous situations. Don't get drunk in public. Don't associate with bad people or go to bad places. Don't look for trouble. If it's midnight and you want to go to the ATM and get some cash, and there are some suspicious looking guys hanging around there, go to another ATM. You don't want to be the guy who got attacked at the ATM who got in a gunfight and won. You want to be the guy who didn't get threatened or attacked at all, because you avoided the danger." --Louis Awerbuck