No, I’m not *quite* that much of an ego maniac. I hope. I’ll explain, further down below.
Well Jenna and I were fortunate enough to attend Massad Ayoob’s MAG-40 class a the Firearms Academy of Seattle a couple weeks ago. What an amazing experience!
Here’s a rough recap of our trip.
We flew into Portland, rented a car, dodged a few homeless people, and drove up to Centrailia, Washington, near where the Firearms Academy of Seattle is… which isn’t actually in Seattle, by the way – they moved out of the Seattle area after ingesting some bad coffee (or something) several years back. The new place is in a beautiful spot – tons of room, lots of different shooting ranges and a super-nice classroom (seriously).
Indoor plumbing is on the to-do list, but beggars can’t be choosers, right?
This was my first trip to the pacific northwest and the scenery did not disappoint. What an absolutely beautiful area – HUGE trees, everything was very green, lots of big rivers nearby, and this:
Somehow I had tricked Jenna into doing the driving, when we zipped past what I can only describe as a series of 100-foot monuments erected by a single rich bachelor with nothing else to do with his money. And yes, that’s pretty much exactly what they turned out to be.
We checked into the hotel… err, MOTEL, and caught dinner with some friends (one of which you may know), including Todd and Tammy Smith, who run GunStart.com. Great people!! We got to hang out with them quite a bit, actually. If you’re ever in Alaska, look them up.
But one of the more interesting happenings of the week was when we got back to the hotel that night. There were about 25 police cars, and who knows how many cops – many with drop-leg holsters and khaki pants, which I guessed was not normal for the Centralia PD. Sadly, my first thought was “wow, there are a lot of cops in our class!”
But no, it turns out that someone died under mysterious circumstances at our 5-star resort. I’m just glad it wasn’t in our room.
Needless to say, the place was interesting.
The first day of the actual 4-day class was beyond all expectations. After we arrived, we were filling out some paperwork, socializing and milling about, when we heard that distinctive booming voice that could only be Mas himself. Jenna turns to me and says “That’s actually him!” And yes, that my first thought too.
He strides up to the front of the class and my next thought was “wow, I was expecting him to be taller.” Even when it’s expected, it’s strange meeting someone who is larger than life… only to discover that they’re actually normal size in real life.
Marty Hayes, on the other hand, is about 8 feet tall with hands the size of a folding chair. Seriously.
On the first day of class, I made the mistake of actually taking notes in a notebook. The next day, I got wise and started typing my notes during class (hopefully my typing didn’t bother anyone nearby) and I was WAY better off when I made the switch. But by the end of Day 1, I had something like 12 pages of notes. No telling how many I’d have had if I had been able to keep up.
Each break went like this: “Guys, go find a tree, (I mentioned the no indoor plumbing thing, right?) girls get the port-a-potties. Back here in 5 minutes.” If you’ve never peed on a rifle range at F.A.S. next to 25 of your new best friends, I highly recommend it.
Side note – there are wild blackberry bushes growing on the rifle range there. But no, I didn’t try any of them while I was standing there. And I probably wouldn’t recommend them to you, either. Your call.
Lunch went like this: “Find a tree, then get your lunch, back here in 10 minutes.” I’d love to give you a review of the ladies restrooms at F.A.S., but I guess you’ll have to wait until Jenna gets her own blog.
Interesting side note: Mas shows a lot of videos during class of him teaching the material. Most were recorded in 1990 (loved the mustache!). But the reason is actually brilliant: if you ever end up in court, your training documentation is discoverable! So knowing that you’ll be in there with a jury filled with people who know nothing about guns or self-defense (that’s why they’re on the jury – if they were members of the NRA or knew a lick about guns they’d get dismissed immediately… jury of your peers is BS), having a chunk of your training on video could be one of the more brilliant things I’ve heard in a long time.
Picture this: your attorney is trying to explain how great of a guy you are and can now say “Your Honor, I submit the actual videos that were shown in Jeff’s MAG-40 class into evidence A thru Z.” Then, and here’s the brilliant part, you now have to show those videos to the jury right in the middle of your trial!!
So here’s what that means for us: we get an opportunity to give our jury a mini-MAG-40 class right there in front of everyone. Truly brilliant! Then, you’ll be held to the level of your training – not to the level of training that they think Bruce Willis had in Red 2. Now we at least have some level of jury-of-your-peers. Love it!
So we spent about 70% of the first day in the classroom absorbing as much as possible. The rest was out at the range.
Days 3 and 4
More of the same. LOTS MORE. We learned some new “Stressfire” shooting techniques, tweaked our stances and grips, and walked away each day with the “I’m full” feeling in our brains.
Interestingly, on the first day of class I walked in with the manly “I can do this” attitude. Kathy Jackson has a brilliant explanation for this phenomenon, so you’ll have to ask her about her 5 phases when she’s here in a couple of weeks.
By day 2, my bravado was almost entirely gone; replaced with the “umm… I hate my grip, this stance sucks, I can’t hit anything, no way I’m going to pass the qualification,” yada yada yada. That carried over into the third day of class, but about halfway through the third day, it had shifted to a strange “ya know, I actually like this new grip/stance. I’m not sure if I will keep it or not, but I get it and it actually works.” By the 4th day, the confidence was back… and shooting the 299 was a product of that confidence (tip – the confidence comes BEFORE you qualify, not after).
Again we spent most of the morning in the classroom. Some amazing stuff that you’ll have to take MAG-40 sometime to hear about.
But then we headed to the range for the qualification. We shot a variant of the Police Pistol Qualification Course, which fortunately Jenna and I have some experience with. It’s not a hard course, it’s just knowing that MASSAD FREAKING AYOOB is standing behind you watching you that tends to mess with you a little bit. Or maybe that’s just me.
We were broken up into 2 groups (we had 37 people in our class) and I was on Relay 1 – so my group shot first. There are multiple stages with some time between stages, so it’s easy to see how well everyone around you is doing.
But here’s my favorite story of the class: we were walking back to the 15-yard line for the last stage and so far I was 45-for-45 with 5-point hits, with 1 stage left. 100%. This is usually when the stress starts to hit me a little bit. I was getting situated when Mas walks up behind me and whispers “That’s some damn good shooting, Jeff.” I could’ve called it a day right then. Or a career. But that’s not the best part… right when he said that, it occurred to me that instead of focusing on the next stage, I was already planning on that being the headline in my next blog post. What I *wanted* to say then to him was basically “beat it, jerk.” Looking back, he’d have gotten a good laugh out of that.
Instead, what I actually said was “Thanks [giggle giggle],” like the school girl that I had apparently just turned into. That’s right when one of my favorite instructors of all-time walked up to me and says “You know he’s just messing with you, right?” And pop! There went my ego bubble. Ha! But yes, I knew that already, I was just enjoying my cloud for a moment.
So to make a long story even longer, I pulled one of my first shots on the last stage and ended up shooting a 299 out of 300. Thankfully, it wasn’t my last shot – imagine the horror of that.
But in so doing, I missed my chance to tie Mas at his own game (he shot a 300, duh) and I learned a few lessons along the way… not the least of which is to turn off the microphones on my hearing protection between stages. And ya know, there’s nothing quite like a “299 Motivator” to encourage you to keep practicing.
So yes, I got out-shot by a 60-something year-old smoker and most of the F.A.S. instructors who shot the course cold before we shot it. I have zero excuses and I have a LONG, long way to go.
In case anyone is curious, I shot my Springfield XDM 3.8 Compact, in 40 S&W. Love that gun. And no, the fact that 9mm Luger is easier to shoot is not an excuse for me or anyone else for having lower scores. Case-in-point: the Top Shot in our class was a young guy who did it with a Smith & Wesson revolver, I’m assuming he was shooting .38 Special ammo. I got to watch him shoot a little bit and it truly was a thing of beauty. Mas talks about “smooth roll on the trigger,” and he could have (should have!!) used this guy as his poster child for that. So stop whining about “wah, my trigger pull is too long.” Ask Revolver Man what his trigger pull is like and I’m sure he’ll say “just fine, thanks.”
Rest of the Trip
The next day we bummed around the area a little bit, hitting some cool little shops in Chehalis, WA, rested, and caught one more night in the 5-star resort before heading back to Portland.
We learned so much that it’s hard to describe the experience. Some great new friends, some awesome instruction philosophies that we’re incorporating already, and several great new shooting techniques. We have several more tools in the toolbox, as it were.
I can’t say enough about the great job that Mas did and how much this class meant to us. If you ever get the chance to take a class like this one, don’t pass it up. Thanks also to Marty and the rest of the F.A.S. staff for helping us out in so many ways. I’m a big fan of what you do there.
On the last day of the class, Marty had arranged for one of his former students come talk to us about a self-defense shooting that he was involved in. Heroes in our world are more common than you’d expect and they may even be sitting next to you in church. Learn from them. The world is a dangerous place – and when a defensive shooting may last only a few seconds, all your training, all your life experiences determine how you’ll react. Don’t pass up any opportunity you have to practice and learn.
Anyway, this trip has changed my life. Here’s a few more pictures that I took along the way. And Jenna, I promise not to include the pictures of you shooting from the “deep cover crouch.” But they really are good pictures.