There is a good reason it is called Mount Storm. The photos best describe the miserable weather conditions as we faced two days of Handgun training and the threat of an approaching hurricane. When I contacted him, the owner, Rod Ryan, suggested I take Handgun II. It turned out to be perfect for my current skill level. At times I was torn between my desire to train and my concern about leaving my home with a major storm bearing down. Thankfully I chose to make the 250 mile trek to Storm Mountain Training Center in Elk Garden, WV.
You might remember this is the same school I went to for the Precision Rifle 1 class last year. As an added incentive my daughter was one of the instructors, but more about that later. The Saturday morning drive from my hotel in Keyser, WV to the training center took nearly ½ hour to climb up the mountain through thick fog. Class started promptly at 9:00 AM and we spent three hours in the class room going over safety, fundamentals of sight picture, grip, stance, etc. The powerpoint presentations were excellent and the presenters did a great job. They took the time to demonstrate clearing weapons malfunctions, the stances and grips and concisely answered any questions. Remember this was a mix of totally green shooters as well as advanced ones so there were many questions from all levels. The students ranged in age from 20 to over 60 and came from all walks of life. There was an eclectic mix of handguns: Glock, Sig, S&W, FN, Kimber, Browning, and others I am forgetting. This mix of weapons made the instructors job even tougher as they worked with different platforms keeping each shooters weapon functioning. In addition they offered tips on how to make the students shots more accurate and their reloads smoother with whatever gun they were carrying. The instructors were up to the task. Despite some intermittent malfunctions my handgun ran through over 500 rounds in the day and a half on range. The instructors are, from left to right, Rod Ryan, Ed, Chris, and Gwynne.
The first day we were on the range shooting steel targets from 1:00 PM until about 5:00 PM. The instructors broke our group up into Handgun I & II after about an hour and we started through a series of drills. Rod and Ed taught the Handgun III class. All of our shooting was aimed-fire drills from the 7 yard line for the first day. We had lots of opportunity to practice reloads and shooting, both drawing from the holster, and from the high-ready position. Our instructor, Chris, was constantly monitoring our grip and stance as well as ensuring range safety. My daughter herded the Handgun I class to the next shooting range over. I had a good day and benefitted greatly from Chris pointers, especially on correcting my grip. All of the students were invited/encouraged to stay for the Handgun III night shoot. Surprisingly some of them headed back to warm lodging and supper. They missed a great opportunity! I hung out and watched. Rod invited me to shoot several times but I had been struggling with my pistol jamming as it got dirtier and I did not want to fight with it in the dark. But I really appreciated his willingness to include me.
Day Two broke with the weather still threatening, colder, blustery and spitting rain throughout. On this day we added point-shooting, ie not using your sights. We shot all the way back to the 15 yard line. I totally amazed myself with the number of hits I got on steel. This was all due to the improvement of my grip! We also went through moving and firing. Chris took us by the shoulder and walked us up to the steel targets from the 15 yard line continuously shooting as we approached and then reloading and shooting as we backed our way out. This was very intense since the muzzle was within three to four feet of the steel. He explained that the bullet fragments sprayed back in a 20 degree cone, and that inside that cone we were safe. Evidently this was true since I never caught any bullet fragments. Later Rod explained to us that the steel targets he uses are designed/sized to replicate the center of mass of a human being. On the afternoon of the second day we shot qualifications. I did OK and any bad times I shot were usually due to firearms malfunctions. I cannot complain though because my pistol did amazingly well for an older, almost archaic gun. I had my own share of malfunctions too like forgetting to load a mag one time and wondering why it did not go bang. Despite that and the bad weather I had a great time! Rod Ryan knows how to run a school and makes sure everyone gets the most out of it. The training facilities are second to none and the friendly staff always make you feel right at home. Yes, I am already trying to decide what course to take next.
Now I said I would get back to the thing about my daughter instructing. Rod and Gwynne are putting together a curriculum designed strictly for women. I think this is a terrific idea. Women have different issues with equipment and learn differently than men. If you guys want your ladies to be supportive of your shooting, get them involved. The best way to do that is to send them where they can train by themselves. This way they are not intimidated by your presence or your expectations. The Womens handgun classes will run concurrent with the regular classes but the women can be off to themselves. You guys better be prepared though, many women are superior shooters to men if guided by the right instructor. I believe Gwynne and Rod have the right mix of talents to provide expert training in the right environment for women to learn firearms skills. Handgun classes are the first ones to be offered for the weekends of May 4-5, June 8-9, and October 11-13, but they are also preparing courses in precision rifle, Tactical Carbine, and even shotgun, for the gentler sex. So check the Storm Mountain website for updates. Hey, if you want completely personalized training you can book that at Storm Mountain Training Center too. Thanks to Rod, Ed, Chris, and Gwynne for a great weekend.