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HomeHomeDiscussionsDiscussionsFirearms and Sk...Firearms and Sk...Updated with Review - John McPhee 2 Day Pistol CourseUpdated with Review - John McPhee 2 Day Pistol Course
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1/4/2019 8:48 PM

I signed up for John's 2 day course in FL in a few weeks.  Curious if anyone has taken his course, or has any feedback on his training techniques.  I have never had any formal gun training since my grandfather's rifle lessons when I was a kid in the 70's.  I am a newer pistol shooter, mostly shotgun and rifle in my life, so hoping to learn lot's and improve greatly.  Any tips to make the course more enjoyable and valuable are greaty appreciated.  I will post an review for any interested after the course.

Short Summary - Amazingly cool dude, one of the guys, incredibly patient, meticulous, strong scientific and technology-based philosophy of technique as well as training methodology.  Trains you to win a gunfight by killing the attacker through an efficient and effective draw and fire process based on his experience and evolution in being in gunfights.  Great use of video, repetition, examples, individual attention, and drills he created.  The class was 7 students, 2 Ex-Rangers, 1 Ex-Special Forces, a Police Officer, 2 Firemen, and a beginner(me).  Everyone I talked to said they learned more about what they were doing right/wrong than any other class they had taken.  The video is the truth.  Other classes they had taken were more "fun", as they shot a lot more, but their improvement curve was way higher in John's class.  We all received (9 in my case) videos of ourselves with John's audio and software enhanced coaching on screen to reference and continue to learn from.  At the end of both days, John gave us one shot of whiskey, and we chatted for a while.  Will I take a class from John again?  F yeah, I will.  Jealous of the guys at his carbine class Monday.

Longer Review:


John, who is a retired, disabled veteran of the US Army, rolls up in his rig early, and is immediately super friendly and inviting. This training took place on the 360-degree range at The Training Grounds of South Florida on a Saturday and Sunday. John is super low key, but a tireless worker, made everyone feel comfortable and welcome, and most importantly you could tell he wants everyone to learn and grow.  John has some arguments with the US gun industry and gun training classes that I will relate below.  He also has created shooting drills based on gunfights he has been in, and created standards for them based on thousands of videos he has watched of American shooters and American gunfights.  

Day One starts with a range safety video and medical plan.  We then load 3 rounds in our guns to shoot one at a time at 3 yards into a three in circle drawn into the upper chest of a target.  John videos our draw, stance, grip, presentaion, and shots.  After videoing all 7 of us drawing and firing as fast as we can John pulls a large screen up in the back of his rig, and walks us though a software enhanced analysis of each of our performances.  The video shoots 240 frames per second, and shows incredible details in HD.  This lasts three and a half hours, and is a highly detailed analysis of where we lost speed, accuracy, consistency, and repeatability.  Going through all 7 shooters reinforces the methodology that John teaches and highlights the main issues that all of us had to some degree or the other.  The draw is too low and the support hand is not prepped correctly, we grip the pistol at an incorrect angle that we compensate for while shooting, we do not pick up the sights early enough causing us to wait(on the video it seemed like forever) to pull the trigger at full presentation, the thumb of our shooting hand pushes the support hand off the pistol as we shoot, our stance leads us to get pushed backward by the gun leading to our groups having a large vertical spread, our head is too high above the sites leading to tenths of seconds burned as you fish for the sites and target, etc.  4 hours in and we have all shot 3 rounds, but more importantly know 10 things to work on.  The repetition of going through each student in minute detail, with John showing us what right looks like and where we lost time and accuracy is grueling but super informative.  During this process the conversations were very interactive, each person asking questions and John ensuring what he was seeing and saying were aligned with what the student was seeing and saying.  That was a fun session, John’s a funny guy, and put’s everyone at ease while he is exposing our areas of opportunity for improvement. My middle daughter is a professional athlete (gets it from mom), and the amount of time on video has grown a ton in her sport in the last half decade.  Watching video slowed down to the 1000thof a second is the only way to really see what is going on.  Just about everyone was seeing 4 tenths here, 5 tenths there that was wasted, and they could also see why they wasted that time.  Also, the video shows minute movements and position changes allowing us to know where we are going wrong.  John simplifies the process in this class to a 3-step draw, stance, grip, and presentation, and the movements after each trigger pull or when moving from target to target.  He offers an advanced pistol course that goes into more depth.  When coaching professional shooters, he goes into even greater detail on each phase of the shooting process helping them shave a tenth or more in their technique.  John has us shoot at a 3-inch target in the upper chest area, because his experience is that anyone hit there isn’t going to live.  Nobody he worked on on the battlefield lived, he related to us, and the confluence of blood and oxygen pathways in this location ensures that three rounds here and the person you are shooting is going to die.  He also tells us he has seen people live up to 10 minutes before they bleed out and die of oxygen starvation to the brain, so we will work on some different locations later in class.  John took us through his thoughts on the pie chart:


and then show’s why he thinks trigger jerk is a myth with a demo using a socket wrench handle (here is a video of the same demo done in class):


We went back to the range and worked on improving from what the video told us, and started to focus on grip technique specifically. John thinks grip is 90% of the answer to all shooting accuracy/consistency.  Here is another video of what he showed us about grip index:


I have been drawing my index line on my hand every day as I practice my grip and draw.  The grip still feels uncomfortable but I am getting the hang of gripping the gun during the draw to the correct index point.  During the index lesson we all looked at each person’s grip index, and what pattern their shots had on target.  Again, great teaching methodology to teach us how to diagnose problems in our technique.

Next drill for the day is the stitch em up drill.  John found that the classic 2 to the chest 1 to the head results in most shooters pausing for up to 5/10ths of a second before breaking the shot, when they move from the chest to the head.  He related that the best gun fights he was in were where the guy dropped on the first shot.  So, he created the stitch em up drill where we shoot mid chest, high chest/throat, then face.  He has found that most shooters don’t spend nearly as much time re-acquiring the sights and target when they walk their shots up the body.  He had us shooting up a one-inch spinal column then a slightly larger brain area above the chin and below the eye-brows.  We do a second 5 shot video near the end of the day.  For me the process of being video-taped was stressful, but having the break down with John and now having them at home is priceless.  The second video analysis is much quicker than the first three-hour round.  We did not have any formal breaks in John’s class, everyone could take a bio or snack break whenever needed though.  At the end of day one we had shot 120 rounds.  John’s friends and students know he likes whiskey, so he has 100’s of bottles that they have given him.  He cracked out a bottle and offered a shot to us all. Even the non-drinkers hung around and we had a nice BS session.  With the number of former Army guys there we heard a lot of stories.  John told a few of his own, and we broke for the day.   I stayed in the barracks at the training grounds, which was inexpensive and comfortable for what it was.  Here is the link to the site, a former prison.  https://traininggrounds.co


Day Two

Range and Medical plan starts the day, John again will be our primary medic.  John tells us today we will shoot more, do movement drills and more video.  During tday 2 John diagnosed me and a few others with eye issues.  I am right handed, eye neutral, but favor my left eye.  I had been shooting with my left eye slammed shut, but John worked with me to get my left eye open, and my right eye out of the way, so they wouldn’t fight for control of the sights.  This is going to take me a while to master, especially when moving from target to target, but when I was executing correctly I had my best groups. We then did movement drills coming at angles to the targets and then transition to parallel movement.  The key was looking at the next target as soon as the shot breaks, and then moving arms and pistol to our eyes.  The final video we taped was what John calls the Yemen. This drill came from his experience training the Yemen Intelligence Service after their Chief was gunned down in the streets.  The standard is 3 rounds into a 3 inch circle (upper chest) do this on 2 separate targets, draw and fire in 5 seconds at 5 yards.  Before we did this, John walked us through the video of the assassination of the Yemen Intelligence chief by two “savages”, as John calls them, with AK-47’s.  Almost everyone (but one guy) in the class met the standard for time, or met the standard for accuracy, none did both, it was me who met neither standard.  John has more advanced versions of his Yemen drill that include carbine, carbine to pistol transitions, reloads, etc.  I have a ways to go to meet the initial Yemen standard, before I get to the Yemen Ultra! The video break-down of this more advanced shooting was really eye-opening.  Seeing all of the breakdowns all of us had in every step of the process, all of the opportunities to shave tenths, or gain accuracy, it was all there in the video. To John there is no perfect there are just levels of better, and the video is the truth.  It felt like we had shot much more on day 2 then day 1 with the different action drills, but in reality I shot 150 shots, 30 more than day 1. I asked a number of the students in the class what they thought and how this compared to other classes they had taken. The feedback I received was that I was lucky I went to John first, other courses were more “fun”, because you shot a lot, but they felt like they never got much better.  The other instructors they had gone to, some of John’s peers from The Unit, ran very solid courses, but nobody was doing what John is doing with the video and the education philosophy.  They all felt like they were learning tons more then they ever had about why they shot the groups they did.  Also, the amount of individual attention they received from John was more than they were used to.  Many said John was super patient, where others were more aggressive.  John told us that the US Firearms industry was mostly about sending shots down range.  He likes to blow-off steam like anyone, but if you are going to get better it’s quality and modern sports video analysis that is going to get you the biggest improvements.  The human eye by itself can’t really see the things people are doing, and so the high-speed video is the difference maker.  I think John is an amazing teacher, and really focuses on getting everyone better. You can tell that his motivation is improving everyone, not stroking his ego, or putting on a show, or anything like that.  At the same time, he is a combat veteran, singleton operator, sniper, assaulter, and more, and that can come out from time to time. Mostly when he is talking about his time in the service, or about the officers and politicians he worked for, that warrior intensity was never directed at any of the guys in the class.  He was very open when talking to us about things he is allowed to.  It was interesting to hear about his opinions on the news, books and movies that have been made about things that he was a participant in. He talked to us not just about Afghanistan and Iraq, but many other things.  One example, I didn’t know that we had trained the soldiers who would become the Zetas Cartel.  They killed over 60+ cartel members in their first mission after being trained in the US, but because Mexico’s government is so corrupt they disbanded the group after that first mission per John.  He didn’t really talk about himself personally much, but when he did it was in a humble, self-deprecating way.  I was envious of the guys who had the Sgt. Major’s Monday carbine class, but honestly I have so much to work on I don’t think I would have gotten everything out of that class I should.  I have a couple of the products he has designed and sells, his deep-conceal holster might be perfect to tie into your kit bag, and his leather condom holster is super comfortable for concealed carry.  He sells them at www.sobtactical.com  They are all American made.  My plan is to practice everyday, and send in a video to John on his GunFighter U website in a month or two for further coaching.  I hope to take his Heavy Carbine course later this year.  He says if there isn't a class in your area yet, you can contact him to put one together.

I used my CZ P10-C and shot Sig Sauer Elite Performance ammunition. Thanks so much for the advice TAK.

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1/6/2019 7:55 AM

Don't know the guy but I'm sure, with his background, what you are taught will be sound.  Next time I recommend Randy Cain of Cumberland Tactics. He's the best I've seen for new shooters (great for not-so new as well)  He has a range a little north of Tampa FL. Its about time for me to attend his Practical Rifle class again.

Range tips?  Pack a lunch.  Spend the money for a Mag Lula loader.  Your fingers will thank you.

New Post
1/6/2019 8:19 AM
Take-a-knee wrote:

  Spend the money for a Mag Lula loader.  Your fingers will thank you.

I thought those things were silly until I bought one for my daughter to use.  It works so well I bought one for myself

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1/6/2019 10:37 AM

Thanks sir, picked one up today.  Researching Randy now, great philosophy and focus on fundamentals.  Thanks for the recommendation! 

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1/7/2019 4:12 PM
Seconding what TAK wrote.. a "thumbs up" for Randy Cain's Practical Rifle class.
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1/24/2019 8:20 AM
Very nice review! Seems you gained a lot from it.
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1/24/2019 7:05 PM

I really did.  John is one of those world class doers and world class coaches if that makes any sense.  John told us as a lefty when he joined the Army they said the Army don’t have lefties, so he had to do everything righty.  The process of learning to do everything with the weak hand hugely influenced the coaching part of his mind.  Then as he advanced they allowed lefty but still with righty weapons, finally arriving in the Unit, they said he could have lefty guns.  He told us he went and grabbed all his weapons and lugged the armload down to the armorer, but the next day he grabbed all his new lefty weapons and lugged them back for his righty guns.  He does certain things faster with a carbine as a lefty shooter having righty controls than righties can do running an all righty gun.  Same with pistol.  Couple other examples of his training follow:  He said the Unit would fly into a place to train room clearing for a week, doing 20-hour days.  He said, and you could see him reflecting back, that they were really Fing lucky nobody got killed.  He firmly believes if they did video training like he does now for LE/Military/Civilians, but did it for one hour a day for 6 months, that all of them would have been so much better, and they would have been a lot safer.  I can’t remember if this was Special Forces or the Unit, forgive my memory lapse, but he said when doing marksmanship training he would bring his target to his Sgt., and the Sgt. Would ask him “Is the mouth in the kill zone”, and he would have to say “No SarMjr”, and hang his head and go back and shoot again.  This was all pre-9/11.  When he was in Afghanistan and Iraq, he saw that his and the other Operator’s mouth shots were kill shots.  Part of building up his knowledge library was observing the human body and what it could and couldn’t handle as it relates to shooting weapons at other humans and the gunshot wounds those shots create.  Hopefully this helps convey the spirit of my message about John as not only world-class as a war fighter, but world class as an imparter of knowledge, and a coach who can help his students get the most out of themselves as gun-fighters.  After taking his class do I have the skill to step out of a 6-wheeler and drop a coyote with a 9mm Glock 19 at 350 yards with a one-handed grip like one of John’s hunting buddy’s, who had been reaching for his carbine like the rest of the hunting group, tells in a podcast, NO.  Am I armed with knowledge to improve, YES.  If I can get 7 things out of 10 to go right when I need to protect my family or myself I think I can do a helluva lot better than if I hadn’t learned from John.  Like I said previously, John’s view of the teacher’s role is to improve every student, and he does it in a non-threatening way.  All that said, when SarMjr puts his left arm out into presentation he looks like he might get blown-over in one of our CAT 5 Hurricanes we get in Florida, but most likely he wouldn’t.  The man’s hands, wrists, forearms, shoulders and chest are naturally massive and he has locked into that position so many times it’s a thing of violent beauty to behold.  I say all this in case you want the class experience of the Hall of Fame Dick Butkus type player and the Hall of Fame Bill Bellichek type coach all rolled into one.  If that’s something you think you might want to experience Shrek is the man to see.

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1/24/2019 7:49 PM
Thank you for the review.

Co-Owner Hill People Gear "If anything goes wrong it will be a fight to the end, if your training is good enough, survival is there; if not nature claims its foreit." - Dougal Haston
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1/25/2019 5:14 AM

Hope it provided some value. 

If anyone in the state of Washington or Colorado is interested in a 2 day heavy carbine or 1 day carbine I would be happy to contact them and see what is required to get a class on the Calendar.  I am at lclarkeb@gmail.com or reply here  his posted schedule is east coast heavy which doesn't work for me this late spring early summer. 

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