After Action – Haley Strategic D5 Carbine Class

This article is a post class, comprehensive review of the September 15-17, 2017 “D5 Carbine” Class taught by Haley Strategic Partners at Hillside Shooting Sports in Roanoke, IN.

* Special thanks to Travis, Bruce and Ben from Haley Strategic for being fantastic instructors, mentors and generally great people.  Thanks to Chris Kelly and Joe Kalil for being my training partners for 3 days and letting me bounce ideas off both of you prior, during and after the class.  And the biggest thank you goes out to my wife, Leah, for always supporting my endeavors and giving me leave to chase some extremely high-quality classes and improve my own lot in the shooting world.

DISCLAIMER – I am not affiliated with Haley Strategic Partners – I was a paying student into their class. – The opinions expressed in this article are mine alone. – The assertions and statements I have made in this article are based off of my recollection and subject to both interpretation and clarification at anytime.

A consistent message you will read in all of my articles is advocating for the continuing education of firearms instructors.  If your instructor is not continuously learning, find a new instructor.  I take my own education very seriously because I feel it is my responsibility as an instructor to seek out the best information and techniques possible and bring it back to my students.

With the goal of seeking out best-in-class information, Travis Haley and Haley Strategic Partners  quickly becomes one of the top classes to seek out in the entire nation.  Besides being a firearms instructor, I am also a research physicist.  Data, scientific-reasoning and the bio-mechanics of shooting all fit into the paradigm I have in the world of defensive firearms instruction.  Haley Strategic’s phraseology of “Disruptive Science” and “Thinkers Before Shooters” immediately fits in with my scientific viewpoint.

Introduction

Travis Haley of Haley Strategic Partners

Travis Haley has a background rarely matched by many in the firearms instruction community.  He is a United States Marine Force Recon Sniper, a former PMC, former CEO of Magpul Dynamics (the training devision of Magpul) and now the founder and CEO of his own company, Haley Strategic Partners.

Along with Travis, are two assistant instructors, Ben and Bruce.  Over the next few days, these gentlemen, along with Travis, would be our teachers, mentors and in some cases, entertainment.  They would also be great encouragement as some of us struggled with drills, equipment malfunctions and accuracy (sometimes at high rates of fire).

Early in the morning on Day One of the three-day class, Travis Haley was doing the introduction of himself and his instructor cadre.  Travis made an interesting remark which immediately caught my attention.

Travis stated, “This is ALSO a shooting class”.

It was evident at this point, while shooting our AR-15’s was a major motivator for signing up and attending this class, we were in for much more.

Day 1:

We arrived at our classroom around 7:30 am.  I had a a little nervous energy, unsure of what to expect when we started out.  As we settled in to the classroom, Travis gave a quick introduction of himself and his instructor cadre.  Like all professional shooting classes, a safety brief was given promptly.  Then we were off to the races.  He wanted us getting out on the range quickly so we could maximize our effectiveness during the time we had the long distance range reserved.

Zero

Each day, we started off with a simple but extraordinarily important concept.  We had to zero our rifles.  This was foundational to all of the distance shooting we would focus on each day.

Going in with limited knowledge:

At first, my perception of zeroing a rifle was an entirely mechanical process.  Pick the range you want your point of aim (POA) to equal your point of impact (POI).  Get into a stable shooting position, typically prone.  Fire a 5-7 round group and determine the center of mass of that group.  Then adjust your sights to move that group center of mass over to your point of aim.  Repeat those steps as necessary until POA = POI… My comprehension of the zero was simplistic to say the least.  Travis had a much more scientific and reasoned approach.

Getting the bigger picture:

We started with the question, “Why do we choose the zero we do?”.  Said a different way, “What distance do you want to zero at, and for what reason?”.

Utilizing data with rifles zeroed at 25, 50, 100, 200 and 36/300 (USMC BZO standard) yards, Travis showed a variety of human shaped silhouette targets with impact points labeled.  Each impact point was where a projectile would impact if you aimed center of mass with a rifle of a specific zero distance.  At this point in time, you get to see a story unfold.  You get to see what the combat effective zone (CEZ) hits are at POA, as well as the distance above or below the target you would have to aim when the POI at a certain distance was outside of the CEZ.

After analyzing the data at each of the 25, 50, 100, 200 and 36/300 targets, a case was made for the 50 yard zero to be the optimum zeroing range for the AR-15 platform.  At 50 yards, there is a 9.5 inch CEZ (measured in vertical distance) for the 50-300 yard POIs. At 400 and 500 yards, 24 and 51 inch holdovers were needed in order to hit center of mass on our targets.  This particular zeroing range optimized the CEZ and minimized the hold-overs.  Our zeroing routine was helping us become more efficient shooters.

We zeroed our carbines on each of the three days of class.  On days two and three, we increased the distance and upped the stakes of our shooting.  But, I will return to that topic later.

Bio-mechanics – Straight lines are strong – Angles are weak

Travis Haley of Haley Strategic Partners teaching Bio-Mechanically Efficient Prone Position

After the morning zeroing session of day one, we spent some serious class room time discussing the “efficient bio-mechanical prone” position.  Professor Haley (I think I should give him such a title since he was a better teacher than most of the professors I had in my undergrad, plus he really has mastery in his field), discussed how straight lines in body posture make for strong and stable positioning of both the person and the rifle.  There were certain ergonomic positions that allowed the individual to absorb recoil, and maintain sights on target throughout the firing cycle.

Points of contact were also extremely important to the efficient bio-mechanical prone position.  The more points of contact you have, the more you have the ability to prevent movement in the body translating to the rifle.

I should say at this point, every body is different, and we all have different physical limitations.  This is where we adapt to our limitations and determine how to maximize our bio-mechanical efficiencies with the constraints we have.

Bruce from Haley Strategic Demonstrating Prone Position – Wounded Warrior – Inspiration

If you have studied precision shooting, you have probably heard of the respiratory pause.  This is supposedly the place where you can take your most effective and most accurate shot.  It is a near truth.  There is a place within the respiratory pause where accuracy is maximized.  It is called the “Lowest Relaxed Point” (LRP).  Even after the pause, there is a place where minimization of body movement takes place, and this is where your most accurate shot may be made.

It was a bit odd that we didn’t discuss this prior to our zeroing session.  I’m still not sure if this was intentional, or we were just adapting in order to maximize the availability of the long distance range on which we were shooting.  What I am sure of, is that I corrected some deficiencies in my prone position.  My zero shifted considerably from day one to day two. I had a realization… I wasn’t just getting a pure mechanical alignment of my rifle.  Zeroing a rifle is really part of a system.  I had to zero myself with my rifle.

Quotes, Concepts, Haley-isms?

I’m not sure at what point in time I should attribute some quotes to Travis as Haley-isms.  Some quotes we had references from, some were just absolutely brilliant and off the cuff I had to commit them to memory.  Here are a few good ones.

“Attrition is not the mission” – Travis in reference to other shooting schools who make people do a ton of “military boot camp” like exercises to stress them before shooting.  HSP wasn’t there to stress people out, and make them do a lot of physical activity just to prove a point.  They were there to teach people to the best of there abilities.

“Model Deliberate Practice – Have a Purpose” – Travis discussing how to improve your performance… and being deliberate… but that was already evident.

“Don’t ever live in a world that is good enough” – Travis quoting the book “Peak” by Anders and Poul… this is a mindset that drives one to improve.

“Becoming a soldier, a police officer or an armed citizen is a calling” (paraphrased) – Travis discussing the responsibility one takes for the safety and security of themselves, their families, their communities and their countries (we did have international students in this class).

Overview on Haley Strategic’s Philosophy

We spent a decent amount of time discussing Haley Strategic’s philosophy and thought process.  I personally found a great deal of value to this block of instruction as it set the stage for improving personal performance and knowledge throughout the rest of the course.

It is difficult to paraphrase and distill the significant amount of information presented on HSP’s philosophy, so I will not go into great detail (you really should take the class, because this stuff is gold).  I will capture some top points as I have understood them.  I’m sure Travis or one of his crew could read over this synopsis and point out where I have misinterpreted or misunderstood.

The individual is more important than the system.  Each person is different.  They have different bodies, personalities, goals and motivations.  Haley Strategic looks at the science behind the individual to achieve peak performance, and does not simply focus on the gun the individual is shooting.

To improve, you must challenge homeostasis, the driving force that wants to keep everything the same.  How do we do this?  By deliberately and consistently practicing.  We have to put in the work if we want change and improvement to occur.

You need to have an understanding of your own personal belief system.  This can be broken down in to the knowledge, values, fears, assumptions and interpretations you personally own.  This self analysis will help guide you to improve your performance.  If you know yourself (and can make an honest assessment), you know what personally imposed limitations or strengths are present.  This can help you succeed by leveraging those strengths or avoiding some of your personal pitfalls.

How to Deliberately Improve

Deliberate improvement/Deliberate Practice is a foundational element the D5 Course was built upon.  Understanding what this means and how to enact such things takes some thought and understanding.  Here is another block of instruction where HSP really helps each of their students build a strong foundation.

The Haley Strategic Skill-set Mastery Plan is a conceptual model Travis presented that helps us to break down the actions needed to “master” a single process or skill.  I won’t go into great detail here, as I am sure it is part of Travis’s intellectual property, but I will say it was a useful tool to analyze the incremental steps an individual needs to take on the journey to mastery.  Personally, I will be listing the skills I intend on mastering as an instructor and shooter; and will utilize this tool to drive my deliberate improvement in the focus areas I choose.

What are your goals?  It is a simple question.  In context, what did we want to get out of this course?  And furthermore, what do we want to achieve beyond this course?  All of the questions were asked rhetorically, forcing us to think about our personal answers and motivations.

Next was asked, How do we achieve our goals?  How do we fail to achieve our goals?  Again, the rhetorical questions force introspection.  The answer to these questions can be broken down into two major parts.  Our resources and our resourcefulness are highly influential to achieving or not achieving our goals.

Resources include: Money, Technology, Contacts, Experience, Management and Education.

Resourcefulness includes: Determination, Creativity, Passion, Innate Drive, Resolve and Curiosity

Another concept that was useful to drive deliberate improvement is the Aggregation of Marginal Gains model.  This model shows that if you improve (or decline) a small amount consistently over time, you achieve greater and greater improvement (or decline) as time goes on.

This is similar to the idea of compound interest in investment.  A little savings and investment compounds interest over time.  The more time an investment you consistently put in, huge gains can be made in proportion to the initial value you with which you started.

A New Insight into Human Behavior

Understanding how your mind affects your ability to carry out tasks effectively and efficiently was a huge part of this class.  Travis used a model that contained three aspects which describe how the mind works.  These three aspects are: Cognitive Thinking, Affective Feeling and Conative Doing.  While I was familiar with the first two items, cognitive doing was entirely new to me.

The definition of conation is, “any natural tendency, impulse, striving or directed effort”.

This new concept, was like a 5000 watt lightbulb turning on in my brain.  While I have spent a great deal of time self-analyzing how I think about things or how I feel about things, I have never thought about my natural way of “doing” things.  While I only received a small introduction into this concept, I now know I will dive deeper into this research in order to make myself a more affective “do-er” in my daily life as well as behind my rifle/pistol.

More range time

The latter half of the day was spent out on the range doing a variety of drills within 50 yards… what could be considered close quarters distances.  We spent time developing our abilities to build accuracy at speed and distance in this session.

The combat effectiveness test (CET) is an exercise that essentially tests your ability to fire quickly and accurately at increasing distances out to 50 yards.  We were instructed to fire a specific number of shots from a designated distance while being timed.  All the while, we were instructed to ensure we were keeping POI within the 12″ combat effective zone.  We also had to manage height over bore (the distance between POA and POI when shooting closer than your zero distance) during this exercise.

Word of advice… do not stand directly to the right of a shooter who is running a Tavor.  Those things kick rounds out 90 degrees from the barrel direction putting you directly in the way of hot ejecting brass… it burns like you wouldn’t believe.

At the end of day one… we had a shooter debrief, set the stage for day two, and dismissed to rest up.  Starting the next day, we accelerated our learning and shooting.

Day 2:

Safety brief… its important.

Zeroing… we did it again.  This time we had the benefit of implementing our bio-mechanically efficient prone position, and our discussion of deliberate practice to help improve our performance.  This was the point in time that I realized we were not only zeroing our rifles, we were zeroing ourselves as well.  The rifle, the ammunition and the human behind the gun are part of an entire system.

My system did not react the way I thought it would on day two.  I had drastically improved my prone position, learned how to mitigate recoil better, and improved my breathing techniques.  However, the size of my zeroing groups spread drastically!  It was frustrating to say the least.

Comparison of Days1-2 of Zeroing Target – R. Gayhart – Haley Strategic D5 Carbine, September 2017

Well, a big part of improving is overcoming your failures.  I would learn a lot about that during this class.  We analyzed my target, made some changes to the zero point on my optic, and got back to business.  My body mechanics had changed (and actually improved) so much in 24 hours that my POI shifted.  Once we re-zeroed my optic, and I started getting accurate hits again, my confidence greatly improved.

Our next course of fire was shooting at steel silhouette targets walking it out from 50, 100, 200, 300, 400 and 600 yards, and then walking it back in on each target.  Up to this point, the longest distance I had ever shot was during our 200 yard zero.  At the 400 and 600 yard distances, we had to employ our holdovers.  This was a new skill for me.

My next lesson in failure I learned right away.  I quickly hit all my targets out to 600 yards, but when I tried to re-engage the 600, my bullet impacts were nowhere to be seen.  All of the sudden, I was landing shots 14 feet left of my POA.  It was so bad, Travis picked up my rifle and tried to land shots netting the same affect.  Something squirrelly was happening with my rifle, and we couldn’t explain it.

After coming off the firing line, I went and tried to do a mechanical check of my rifle.  I ensured the optic mount was tight, checked my magazine, my ammunition and inspected the crown of my muzzle to make sure I didn’t have any damage.

I ended up taking a second turn on this course of fire, and subsequently landed all of my rounds with no problems afterwards.  Even in the classroom later on, Travis and I were discussing that we were unsure of the source of such errant shots.  It could possibly be bad ammunition… but we just don’t know.  Whatever the problem, it affected both myself and a world class shooter, so at least I have the confidence that my skills were at least not the (primary) culprit.

After finishing this exercise, it was back into the classroom for some more heady knowledge courtesy of the disruptive science mantra.

Body Alarm Reaction (BAR)

The D5 Carbine class is built around around the carbine as a defensive or offensive weapon system.  We aren’t discussing how to shoot precision rifle competition here, even though there is some overlap in skills.  Needless to say, any time you are discussing combat situations there needs to be a discussion on what the body alarm responses may be.

Under perception of grave bodily threat, the body reacts involuntarily through the autonomic nervous system.  When this happens, the endocrine system injects a mixture of hormones and adrenaline in to the bloodstream which CAN cause loss of dexterity, including fine motor skills IF NOT CONDITIONED.  Note the emphasis on “CAN” and “IF NOT CONDITIONED”.  There is an ability to inoculate yourself to some degree from such effects.

Travis gave the analogy of how he decreased the stress effects from parachuting, simply by getting more repetitions jumping out of airplanes until he felt somewhat comfortable with the process.  The more repetitions, the less stressful it was.  Now, extrapolating to a gunfight, you probably aren’t going to get the repetitions in unless you are in a military action somewhere in a hostile country.  There are some things we can do to start building up some inoculation to stress while shooting.  Competitions, timed courses of fire and attending training events that have a stress conditioning emphasis like force-on-force are all great ways to start practicing under stress.

Some of the Body Alarm Reactions you may experience are:  Fight, Flight, Posturing, Submission or Freezing.   These are the initial somatic reflexes the body may undergo upon initiation of the threat.  During this part of the course presentation, Travis covered the sequence or stages of events which occur upon initiation of contact with the threat.

One of the more interesting presentation points during the BAR discussion was that of the physical changes to the blood-flow and muscles in the eyes.  There is a physiological change which causes what we colloquially describe as tunnel vision.  This physiological change diminishes near-distance focus.  This makes it difficult to see the front sight of a pistol under stress. It also makes a great case for a red-dot sight on a rifle since the focal point is the target, and the red-dot is superimposed over the target.

Eyes

One of the most useful and detailed discussions of the D5 Carbine class detailed the science behind how our eyes work.  The lessons here met Haley Strategic’s reputation for bringing the hardcore science to the shooting world.

Here we discussed target accommodation, which can be defined as the process in which the eye changes optical power to maintain a clear image or focus on a target in the distance.  The ability of an individual to focus on the target depends on the target size, the range to the target as well as the visual ability of the shooter.  This is important in both target acquisition and target identification.  I found myself having trouble with target accommodation from 400 yards out… I’m sure some of this is normal, but I’m also sure that the procrastination I have been doing to delay seeing the opthamologist may be coming to an end soon.

We also discussed the physical way the eyes find a point of reference.  These eye movements are call saccades.  It is the ballistic movement of the eyes.  Your eyes do this about 100,000 times a day as you look around at different objects and events.  When you are scanning a crowd  of people, it is not a continuous motion.  Your eyes skip and jump to each individual you focus on.  This is important when we discuss target acquisition with your rifle.  You need to search with your eyes then put your rifle on target.  It is much faster than searching through the optic or sights on your rifle.

This being said, there is one time your eyes do no jump focal points.  This is when you are tracking a moving target.  Here, the eyes move continuously.

More Range Time – Day 2

CET day two… Repetition makes for good skill building and increased myelination.  We worked back to 50 yards with multiple rounds while under stress of time, trying to keep those rounds in the combat effective zone.  My observation was that everyone improved from day one.  People were shooting faster, and shot groups were getting smaller.

We then moved on to Transitions between multiple targets.  We started with transitions between just two targets and then moved on to transitions between three targets.  Transitioning targets at speed requires you to be cognizant of your body mechanics and the momentum of your firearm so you don’t over swing and move the rifle past your target.

One of the culmination drills we ran at the end of day two was the 2-2-4-2-2 drill.  This drill consisted of target transition from left to right and back to left on three targets with 2 rounds to the left target, 2 rounds to the center target, 4 rounds to the right target then back to 2 rounds on the center target and 2 rounds on the left target.  We moved as fast as we could while maintaining “combat effective hits”.

End of day two… we had our second shooter debrief and discussed the plans for day three.  We were informed that day three was going to be 99% on the range.  We had some good practice in for the past two days and it was time to step up our game.

“You’ve just run a marathon, now 3 miles is easy.”, – Travis Haley
 I can’t remember the entire context of this quote, but the general message was that once you have improved, passed your previous limitations and set new standards for yourself, some of the things you used to think were difficult aren’t anymore.  This was another piece of sage wisdom we picked up during D5 Carbine.

We then made plans to get together for a group dinner that evening.  Brazilian steakhouse… I’m not sure there is any more fitting meal after a day of shooting than one which entails servers bringing around as much skewered meat as you can handle.

Day 3:

Safety brief… did I mention this was important?

Morning session started off fast.  First thing we did was our zero.  Day three demonstrated how much better I had become.  My groupings were getting tighter and my POI was mostly right where I wanted it.

My little pony – Evil, pure evil

I did have a couple of fliers… though I blame that on trying to zero at 200 yards while laughing.  Apparently it was a good time for one instructor and one student to have an absolutely ridiculous and quite funny conversation about my little pony directly behind me.  This is one of the negative consequences of using active electronic hearing protection.  You hear everything whether you want to or not.

To the two individuals with the my little pony fetish… you know who you are, and I will one day claim my revenge.  😉

Comparison of Days1-3 of Zeroing Target – R. Gayhart – Haley Strategic D5 Carbine, September 2017

 

Next we did our steel walkout from 50-600 yards like we had done on day two.  This time for me, I had zero accuracy issues.  But, I did find some equipment issues I had not foreseen.  We had shot approximately 800 rounds in the past two days.  While I tried to give my rifle some oil, I probably went a little too sparingly.  I learned my gun needs to be run rather wet (meaning it wants more oil than I thought, a lot more oil).  During the walk out, I was constantly having to cycle my charging handle to get a round seated.  It was like trying to shoot a bolt action gun at speed.  I could do it, but it wasn’t pretty.

Ben, one of our assistant instructors, helped me get squared away and drowned the necessary parts of my rifle in gun oil.  The AR platform I was running, a Sig Sauer 516, is a gas piston system rifle.  I did not expect to have issues with lubrication and fouling like I may have seen in a direct impingement rifle like a standard AR-15 with a gas tube.  While the bolt carrier group and chamber area of my rifle did stay very clean, it went dry pretty quickly.  So, lesson learned here… know the limitations of your weapon platform and how much maintenance it needs.  It was better to find this out during the class than some day later down the road when the North Koreans invade.

Getting Down on One Knee – Not the Proposal Variety

We followed our now-routine morning exercises up with combat kneeling positions and some low to ground lateral movements.  Combat kneeling positions differ from marksmanship positions in the ability to quickly go from kneeling to moving.  This is exceptionally important in you are moving from cover to cover, or trying to escape incoming fire.

Travis Haley of Haley Strategic Partners Demonstrating Combat Kneeling Positions

While working in the kneeling positions, we also discussed low lateral movement techniques.  These movements are great when trying to stay behind cover and move your way into a firing position.

This turned out to be a good workout.  It was kind of like lunges in the gym.  I hate lunges.  But now I have a new purpose to do them (or at least a variant of them).  Instead of lunges, now when I am in the gym, I can grab a kettle-bell and practice my combat kneeling positions.  No one in the gym would ever suspect I was practicing weapons manipulations, that is, unless someone from a Haley Strategic class was working out at the same time.

A Little Competition

First, I have to apologize for the lack of photos from the last part of this class… the pace increased quite a bit, and there was little time for me to even contemplate photos.  I do have to say, day three was very much about testing limits.

Next… we had a little competition.  We divided into two teams.  We all stood in a single file line with our team.  Each team had their own steel target to hit.  The person at the front of the line took the first shot and then rotated to the rear of the line upon hitting the steel.  The next person up, staying exactly where they were and not advancing forward, took their shot and rotated to the rear after they hit their target.  Next shooter up repeated the process.

We started at 50 yards and continually rotated back until a team  reached back to the 200 yard mark first.  It was speed, stress of not letting your teammates down and each time you shot, the distance increased.  We had the option of using our standing, kneeling or prone positions.  With time on the clock, we had to figure out how much we trusted the stability of each position and whether the time sacrifice to get in a position was worth it.  We quickly learned that many of us could handle the standing position all the way back to the 200 yard mark.  This gained us a great deal of speed.

I have to take a moment and brag about my team (team 2 for those who were there).  We won this little competition with a pretty decent lead.

A Little More Competition

Why be subdued and go into more instruction/lecture blocks when we can have another competition, induce stress – and performance – from your students???  Well, our wonderful friends at Haley Strategic gave us another drill where stress, time, competition and distance smacked us right in the face… and it was lovely.

Here is the scenario… you have one shot, one chance… there are no repeats or do-overs.  You must make this shot count.  600 yards, freestanding, on a shot timer.  The previous record was 1.21 seconds.  Beat it.

Well… this is going to be tough.  Before we started, Travis made a statement.  I am paraphrasing here.  I didn’t take notes or video.  Travis told us that we had learned the skills to make this shot happen.  He have practiced all the stances, all the hold-overs, all the breathing and the focus/concentration.  The only thing we are adding is time and standing positions.  He told us to trust ourselves and just let it go.

I was not the class record holder.  I can say our class broke the record 4 times.  My personal time was 1.14 seconds with a center mass hit.  Our classmate had a 0.91 second hit (that is damned fast).  I would never have thought this type of shot possible, but in the end, I believe we had 14 students hit the target on the first try.  It is a hard shot… but now that I have done it once, I think I can do it again.

I want to re-reference Travis’s previous quote – “You’ve just run a marathon, now 3 miles is easy.”.  Much of this class was about pushing past your limits, and have an open mind about what is possible.  At one time earlier in the class, Travis made a comment about having the mindset that whatever task is set before you is easy.  Have the mindset that you can step up and perform.  He wasn’t talking about cockiness.  He was talking about having confidence in your abilities and not counting yourself out before you give it your best shot.

Life lessons were, indeed, abundant in this class.

Trigger Control – This is ALSO a shooting class… isn’t it?

Trigger control is a necessary fine motor skill for precision shooting.  Travis and the Haley Strategic crew broke down the trigger pull in a logical, scientific and bio-mechanical manner.  Right from the beginning of this block of instruction, they get into the science.

Bio-mechanically, it is impossible to pull the trigger in a perfectly-straight, rearward motion.  The trigger hinges back and up while the finger hinges back and in toward the control hand.  There are steps we can take to optimize our trigger control, but a perfect rearward press is quite illusive.

Travis spent time giving the scientific approach to optimized trigger control.  This was the what to do section of the lesson.  He then added the watch-outs and pitfalls of inconsistent and non-optimized trigger pull.  By providing this information, tools were given to each student to self-analyze and think critically  about our own trigger mechanics.

This class did not have an instructor beating you over the head telling you that you were slapping the trigger (an overused excuse from instructors who did not truly have the ability to diagnose shooter deficiencies).  They provided solid information to help you improve.  Instructors would certainly step in and help those diagnose deficiencies and help individuals improve, but they balanced the direct approach with allowing students to self-analyze, self-actualize and self-correct.  This provided students the ability to continue to improve outside of our three-day class.  It allowed for continual, independent improvement.

Shooting Fast with Science

How do we shoot fast?… not by banging away at the trigger like a rabbit on meth.

Distance = time

—and—

Decreasing trigger movement distance = decrease in time

Mastering the pull of your trigger requires understanding the most efficient and minimally traveled points to release and rest the trigger.  The Haley Strategic folks had this mapped out… trigger distances at full slack (slapping distances) and minimized reset distances were charted out.  Anecdotally, there were 80% or more decreases in distance when you master your trigger. This was a data supported and logically sound manner to create massive improvement in the shooter.  Again, HSP demonstrates their mastery of science and data when improving shooter performance.

For what it is worth, I did some calculations on the fly.  Travis advocates for modern striker fired semi-automatic pistols as your standard sidearm…

Travis is a glock guy for the most part… apparently his COO James has not yet convinced him how great the H&K VP9 is ;-)…  on a side note, Travis and I discussed having limited “brand-loyalty” as to not cloud our personal and professional judgements on what new technologies may become useful to us in the future… so maybe James has a chance to influence him.

While I currently carry a modern striker fired pistol as my everyday carry, I am a huge Sig Classic P-Series fan.  Their single action trigger is one of the best on the market.  My Sig Sauer P229 Legion has a 1.3 millimeter reset distance.  Even with this extremely short reset, the distance calculations do not make up for the increased distance of the first double action trigger pull which is nearly a full inch.  The science and reasoning makes sense.

Back on the Range – Last Day – I’m Going to Miss This

Last day on the range… we aren’t slowing down for anything.  First order of business, CETs.  Master your trigger, shoot fast, shoot accurate.  Remember your hold overs. Don;t get out of the CEZ with your hits.

Neuro-muscular timing was a new concept to me in the shooting world.  Though it resounded with me intrinsically.  The idea that cadence and tempo affect a person and can improve their performance is nothing new to me.  It is just new in the shooting world.  Having played in bands for the past twenty years (I currently play guitar in my church worship band), understanding tempo was not a great leap.  Travis introduced the idea of practicing deliberately with a metronome.  I am looking forward to doing this and watching improvement occur as my neuromuscular timing syncs/improves.

Target transitions?  Yeah we did that.  Time to add some twists.  Our Haley Strategic friends set up two steel targets.  We did transition drills between the two targets.  We moved fast.  The purpose was to push our envelope and convince us our capabilities were much great than our predetermined limitations.

Next we did a drill with those same steel targets where we ran to out first shooting point in from of the left target.  We hammered it quick with 6 rounds, ran a point in front of the right target and hammered it with 6 rounds.  We added spacial awareness to our repeater of practiced skills.

We added a twist to the previous drill hitting target 1 with one round, performing an emergency reload on the run to point two and then hitting target two with 6 rounds.

These drills kept adding time, speed, increased heart-rate and stress to our processes.  It was intense, and, it was fun.  There wasn’t a single person who did;t give it their all.  People encouraged others to do their best and people answered by giving it their all.  This was an impressive sight.

Last Class Session

Travis saved some of the headiest material for last.  How to exercise your brain was a hallmark of this last class session.  Their was a great deal on trusting your abilities, visualization, and mental fortitude.

Travis emphasized using a neurobic strategy to exercise your mental abilities, not only for shooting, but for your mental health.  These exercises encourage you to use your senses in different ways each day to help build and strengthen neural connections.  Changing routines on how you do everyday tasks can go a long way to helping increase your memory and brain function, allowing you to learn new things more easily.

Use mental representations and visualizations to help you achieve your tasks.  See your actions, imagine your actions before you do them.  I was reminded of the story of Major James Nesmeth.  Major Mesmeth loved golf.  Unfortunately he had a seven year break from the game he loved.  You see, during this time he was held as a prisoner of war by the North Vietnamese Army.  Every day for for those seven years, Major Nesmeth played his favorite golf course in his mind.  He visualized every swing, every rolling hill, every sand trap and every putt.  After his release and repatriation back to his home, Major Nesmeth stepped foot on a real golf course for the first time in seven years, where he shot a 74, almost 20 strokes lower than he had ever scored before.  This is the power of visualization.  (click here for a link to this story).

He advocated for a growth mindset vs a fixed mindset.  Focus on incremental steps to your goals to make greater improvements.  This is moving your homeostasis forward.  Always have something, some goal to chase.  Keep an open mind and always have a mindset to surpass your perceived limitations.

Conclusions and Critiques

First I have to give great praise to the instructors of this course.  Travis Haley is an absolute master of his craft.  Not only is he one of the most skilled shooters I have ever met, he has the analytic mind to break down the science of how to shoot with great proficiency.  As a teacher, he also possess great skill in his ability to articulate the hows and whys of shooting.  Ben and Bruce, both skilled shooters themselves, spent a great deal of time with each and every student, offering encouragement, helping solve small issues that were affecting shooters mindset and proficiency and were generally fun to be around.  Bruce, a wounded warrior who honorably served our country, was quite possibly the most positive and uplifting human being I have ever met and was quite an inspiring individual.

The amount of information presented in this course was like drinking through a fire hose.  While we seemingly started off at a slow pace on day one, we accelerated faster and faster as the course went on.

Travis was correct in saying this was ALSO a shooting class.  Much of what we learned washout how the brain works in concert with the body.  We learned some of the science behind shooting.  I am sure we barely scratched the surface here and there is much, much morello continue learning in this area.

I was impressed by the research and science based methods and conclusions Haley Strategic Partners have incorporated into their class.  100% of the information we were provided was based on actual data.  HSP has a network of experts in kinesiology, neurology, bio-mechanics who are partnered with them to create a unique niche in the firearms world.  They are bringing cutting edge “sports-science” and psychology to play in the shooting world.

Being a NRA, USCCA and Kentucky DOCJT certified instructor, I have spent a great deal of time in what I would call the traditional shooting instruction.  Most of this instruction has nothing to do with the brain and has everything to do with instructing basic body positions and movements.  The Haley Strategic approach was a breath of fresh air, giving life to a stagnant (and highly proscriptive) instruction industry.  I’m actually looking forward to bringing some of the concepts I learned in this course and trying to adapt them into the concealed carry course I teach.

My initial expectations of this course included more weapons manipulations.  Like many other courses in this arena, I expected longer blocks of instruction on basic shooting fundamentals, malfunction clearances, emergency and tactical reloads (Travis uses the term proactive reloads -which is brilliant and much more definitive).  After coming into this class, my perception changed.  There is a lot of trust that the individuals who attend this class come in with a basic level level of comprehension skill.  D5 Carbine is not what I would consider a basic/entry level carbine class.  That being said, the earlier an individual participates in this course, I think they will avoid some of the pitfalls and “bad habits” shooters acquire via self-learning or taking classes with individuals whose teaching ability comes from the preverbal “I’ve been shooting all my life” crowd.

Much of the traditional weapons manipulations curricula was instead replaced in this course with the science, bio-mechanics, mindset and neurology.  This was unexpected and yet very well  placed.

I do wish there would have a block of instruction on transition to secondary weapons systems.  That is a skill set I rarely get to practice in a live fire mode which would have fit well with the bio-mechanical efficiency model taught throughout this course.  I am assuming this content is predominantly covered in the higher level HSP courses.  I basically kept a pistol and spare mags on my belt three straight days, not aware i was never going to use them.

After completing this course, I can say I was both mentally and physically exhausted.  Every single exercise, block of instruction and personal interaction with the HSP crew provided me new ideas, insights or skills.  I own several of Travis Haley’s instructional videos from his MagPul and Panteo instruction days.  Yet, attending the class in person really goes a very long way to improving my understanding.  With a video, you can only imitate what you see, which is a start.  In person however, you get feedback from the instructors, you can ask questions and clarify your understanding.  This is of immense value and makes the investment in this course worth every penny.

I am very much looking forward to the next Haley Strategic Partners class I can attend.  I definitely want to get the D5 Handgun course under my belt.

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