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OpSpec Training’s “Practical Fundamentals” Class, and What You Thought You Knew About Pistol Shooting

It almost sounds like a riddle, or a really bad shooting joke: “How do you solve marksmanship problems? With marksmanship!” But it’s neither a riddle, nor a joke. The temptation is to sit there on your couch, or your toilet, and scoff. Of course, the key to good shooting is marksmanship. But people love gadgets. We’re so proud of our ingenuity and our ability to innovate that we let our equipment short-circuit our skill set. Everything from race holsters to red dots have been designed and marketed to make us “better” shooters — a faster first shot, easier target acquisition, and more shots with less trigger manipulation. Don’t get us wrong, we’re not turning our noses up at any of that stuff — we have an aftermarket trigger and sights on our Glock.

But you have to attend to your fundamentals, and this is the philosophy of the instructors at Operational Specific Training. We recently attended their two-day Practical Fundamentals course and were highly impressed with how much progress was achievable with so little training time. OpSpec stresses that futzing with your equipment isn’t necessary, and none of it will solve whatever shortcomings you might have as a marksman.

Before we go any further, we should address a question that gets overlooked by most training articles — namely, “Is this class for me?” The answer, for 90 percent of people reading this, is “yes.” Practical Fundamentals is one of those classes that is very difficult to package neatly as either basic or advanced. The drills and principles they cover are simple, but not easy. Let’s put it this way: if you just bought your first gun, and you’re still waiting for your CCW card to come in the mail, this might not be the class for you. If you’ve been shooting for more than three months and can safely work from the holster, you wouldn’t be left behind in a Practical Fundamentals class.


The instructors themselves bring an absolute wealth of knowledge to the table. Our class of 16 students had three instructors. This works out to a great ratio of about 5:1 — noteworthy all by itself. We’ve heard that the optimal student-teacher ratio in any kind of academic environment is 7:1. We’d guess most of our military training was about 10:1, and most college classes are somewhere closer to 25:1. The folks at OpSpec provide a small group environment that is intensive and allows each student to progress as far, and as fast, as possible in the time allotted.

While all fundamentals are important, trigger control is arguably particularly so — as poor trigger control can have a disproportionately negative impact on your accuracy. You will spend most of your time on trigger control in this class. In fact, in his opening speech, Bruce Gray relates that this course has been referred to as a “Ph.D. in trigger control.” We tend to agree.

In fact, we became more intimate with our trigger system in two days than we ever really knew how to before. How so? Think about this: say your carry pistol has a trigger pull of 4.5 pounds. When you sight in on your target and begin that slow, steady press to the rear, how do you know that you’ve applied 4.5 pounds of pressure? We used to think the answer to that question was “the gun goes off.” It makes sense if you don’t really think about it — which we didn’t, for a long time — but the truth is slightly more complicated. Let’s stick with our example of a 4.5-pound trigger. In this case, the gun will go bang if you apply 4.5 pounds of pressure to the trigger. But it’ll also go bang if you apply 24.5 pounds of pressure. The difference between the two is where the shot will land. The closer you can come to applying exactly the pressure needed to run the trigger, the faster and more accurate you can be.


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