I’ve been meaning to write a review of this course for some time now, but due to work, training, moving, procreation and various other non-substantial excuses for my procrastination, I haven’t. Last year (yeah, 2010) in October, I attended the Basic Defensive Pistol course by Personal Tactics (Personal Tactics Self Defense Training in Atlanta | Gun Training Classes in Atlanta). I learned about the class while reading a Handgun magazine I picked up at Fob Sharana. I have since seen the school mentioned in the Glock magazine as well. I attended the class shortly after returning from a combat tour in east Afghanistan. At that time, the only formal handgun training I had received was from the Army, and needless to say, it was about worthless. I’m not saying that the Army doesn’t have good pistol classes, just that the one I had been through was a joke. It was essentially a crude Beretta M9 familiarization course, and then we were dumped off on the qualification range. The M9 qualification is so easy, you can literally throw rocks at the targets and pass. I also had a Georgia weapons carry license, and was carrying my Glock 22 on a daily basis. I had taught myself some techniques by watching Magpul Dynamics Art of the Dynamic Handgun, but that was the extent of my handgun knowledge. My Platoon medic, and battle buddy from overseas was supposed to attend the class with me, and I had already paid his fair. Some family issues arose after we got back and he had to back out, so I managed to talk my father into going. He’s in his 40’s, prior service active duty Air Force (F-16 avionics) and currently a nurse anesthetist. He’s had no formal handgun training at all, but has been shooting and hunting for most of his life. I took my Glock 22 with a custom stipple job, Trijicon sights, NY trigger, 3.5lb bar, stainless guide rod and extended mag release, and Dad took his new Beretta PX4 Storm in .40S&W. I carried my Glock in a Blackhawk SERPA that I bought long before learning of their shortcomings, with spare mags in Blackhawk doublestack mag holders; all on a 5.11 riggers belt. Dad ran an el-cheapo Fobus holster and mag holder, also on a 5.11 belt. When we got to the class, I was surprised that Dad and I were the only attendees. I guess the cold weather scared everyone away? We met up with Robert Wilson and Harlan Hamlin (Hamlin didn’t teach during our class) at a bank, where they conduct the classroom portion of the school. It was somewhat odd walking inside the bank with a cardboard box full of guns and ammo. Wilson introduced himself sharing his Military, Law Enforcement, contractor and civilian experience in a non-bragging way. I won’t delve deeply into his past, but he’s a retired Force Recon Marine, former Police Officer, has contracted with Blackwater and several other companies and is now in Federal Law Enforcement. He has trained with GSG9, SAS, and seen combat in multiple countries. He is belted in several martial arts and has also been involved in two gunfights as a regular joe. You can find more information on their website. During the classroom portion, we covered mindset, legality, stress, philosophy, equipment and techniques. We talked at great length about scenarios especially in regards to the Law, as the class focuses on defensive shooting/concealed carry. Not just the do’s and don’ts, but the how’s and why’s, in reference to complicated subjects as shooting un-armed assailants, defending third parties and defending family and property. Side note: Wilson recommends a Glock 19 for defense work. He says it’s cheap, tough, easy to shoot and a perfect size. He changes out the front sight for a metal one, and that’s it. He recommends Buffalo Bore loaded Gold Dot or Corbon bullets. We reviewed various weapons handling techniques. Wilson showed multiple ways of reloading, clearing malfunctions, drawing, holstering, weapons retention and more. For example; when showing different reloading techniques, he showed the way he does it, the way he was taught by the SAS, the way he was taught by GSG9, other common practices, and then discussed the pro’s and con’s of each; encouraging us to justify every movement, and make the process as simple as possible. It was here that Dad was starting to struggle a bit. Years of shooting in the backyard had formed bad habits, one in particular being grip. Dad likes to put his support hand index finger in front of the trigger guard. Wilson picked on him and jarred him a little, to correct the problem and keep the mood light. Wilson doesn’t seem to be one to pull punches. Dad also kept his finger closer to the trigger than is acceptable, and Wilson was quick to nip that. Equipment issues started to arise as well. Surprisingly, my SERPA was running fine, but that can’t be said for Dad’s Fobus. The retention adjustment was miss, or miss. It was either too tight, or too loose, with no happy medium to be found. The holster also loosened up and began to rotate forward and back. Another issue was with the Beretta. I don’t know why they thought it was a good Idea, but the safety/de-cocker has an extremely sharp edge and a point that protrudes out toward the muzzle. This design flaw makes it painful when flipping the lever down to de-cock and back up to fire before holstering over, and over, and over again. Additionally, because of the way it protrudes forward, when using an overhand method to cycle the action, or release the slide after a reload, the lever digs into the palm of your hand. Dad had blisters on his thumb and palm in no time. Starting out on the range we went through draw, fire, scan, and re-holster drills with dummy rounds before loading up. Wilson had us shooting simple, 8.5x11in. printer paper as targets. Some with a 6in circle drawn out, others with 3x5 index cards traced on them. Wilson’s rational was why would you spend a ton of money on targets to shoot holes in them? “If you shoot small ****, big **** is easy to hit, so shoot small ****” he said regarding the index card targets. We shot from 3, 5, 7, 10 and 15 yards. More distance was available, but Wilson pointed out that skills are built in close, then you can work back farther. He also noted that most defensive gunfights are at very close ranges. We would draw on command, firing a prescribed amount of rounds, quick scan, pull back to the ready position, scan in detail, then slowly re-holster without looking (another of Dad’s stumbling blocks). We shot moving forward, moving backward, moving side to side, moving off the “X”, dropping to a knee and more. We shot from the “Number 1” position-just as we cleared the holster, the “Number 2” position-from a compressed ready position, tight against the chest, and from the “Number 3” position-fully extended, sighted fire. Dad began to have trigger related issues, and was getting frustrated, so Wilson ran through some ball and dummy drills and got him back on target. We then shot some actual silhouette targets with three zones, “Brain, Heart and Nuts,” as Wilson referred to them. He’d shout, “Two in the heart, two in the nuts and two brain!” He explained that doing structural damage to the pelvis of a charging attacker by shooting them in the groin area will slow them, causing them to lean forward, and providing you with an excellent brain shot. Dad was running Winchester white box, Blazer and some Lawman through his PX4 and experienced no issues what so ever. I ran Wolf 180gr. Ball through my Glock, and had an oval shaped round get lodged in the chamber. I had to catch the corner of the slide (the front, beside the muzzle) on the edge of a table and beat down on the grip to get the slide to cycle back and eject the bad round. Wilson said, “When that **** happens, it’s time to start pistol boxing, or hauling ***.” All in all, we didn’t shoot all that many rounds- around 325-350 I believe. But that’s not bad for one day at the range. I learned a lot from Wilson, and I’m looking forward to being able to attend his Advanced class. He also hosts Ken Hackathorn from time to time, and suggested I check out that class as well. I’m sure there are aspects of the training I’ve left out, but that’s my fault for taking so long to write the course review. I have since become a Police Officer, and have to say that the training I received at Personal Tactics helped me stand out when doing weapons training in the Academy and Patrol School, as well as at open range days. I recommend this class to anyone. Dad was extremely impressed. Before the class, he had questioned it, saying that he didn’t need training like that, that he knew enough to defend himself. After the course, he was blown away. He went home and told his brothers that they “didn’t know what they didn’t know.” He’s referred several of his friends and co-workers as well. “Don’t invite him to your gunfight” -Robert Wilson, Personal Tactics.