I’m normally not one given to the use of superlatives, but as I write this, I am several days removed from THE BEST handgun training I have ever received. My mind is still racing with all the stuff we learned and my right hand is still sore from firing hundreds of rounds from my snubnose .38 during the two day class. (Note to self: Ya’ might want a bigger gun next time.) The course was Threat Centered Revolver, developed and taught by Grant Cunningham. It was sponsored by Phoenix Firearms Training at the Ben Avery Shooting Facility on April 1-2, 2017.
Here I am all jocked up and ready to go. From left to right. S&W Model 642 .38 caliber snubnose revolver with a Crimson Trace LG-305 laser grip. I run hot and cold on lasers but the grip itself is the best I’ve used. The laser turns on and off. Holster and belt by Simply Rugged , a small outfit in Prescott, AZ. The holster is their Silver Dollar model made for short barrel revolvers. I have Simply Rugged holsters for all my handguns They’re the only kind I use. Next, two HK36 speed loaders inside JOX speed loader pouches. They are a recent purchase. Made of Kydex, they hold the loaders securely and are the most concealable holders I’ve ever seen. I’m wearing them upside down. I find them more comfortable and concealable that way. I did dozens of reloads from the JOX this weekend. They worked flawlessly. A hook and loop pouch and speed loader pouch from Uncle Mike’s complete the training ensemble. I found the hook and loop pouch to be really valuable for loading up a couple of rounds during a lull. It’s a good skill to have. As you can imagine, firing hundreds of rounds with a five shot revolver kept me busier than a one-armed paper hanger. For every day carry (EDC), I use one JOX loader and the hook and loop pouch with a speed strip in the top row and six loose rounds on the bottom. Everything disappears under a loose t-shirt.
Six weeks ago, I’d never heard of him. I stumbled on to him and his training quite by accident. I was surfing on Amazon and a bunch of books showed up under the heading “Based on your browsing history”. One of them was Defensive Revolver Fundamentals by some guy named Grant Cunningham. I love revolvers, have carried one everyday for years and have looked for dedicated revolver training without success. It seems that nobody teaches revolver handgunning anymore. The preferred training platform is big, honkin’, high capacity semi-automatics. That’s fine. I own several of those too. I’ve trained hard with them and many of the skills are transferable – but not all. The revolver is a different animal. I’d pretty much given up and decided I might have to go the book learning route for revolver-specific skills.
So I bought Grant’s book – and read it cover to cover the first night. Then I bought another of his books – Protect Yourself With Your Snubnose Revolver – and devoured it just as quickly. Here was a fellow wheelgunner and he was speaking my language. I sent him an email and he answered. We corresponded several times. I also subscribed to his blog, where I found out that Grant offers revolver training and was bringing the Threat Centered Revolver class to Phoenix in just a few weeks. I signed up right then and there.
On Saturday, April 1, five of us (three men and two women) were on Pistol Range 4 at the Ben Avery complex. The weather was perfect all weekend – sunny, not too warm with a nice breeze. This was taken at the end of the course. Me on the left. Grant on the right. The van belongs to course sponsor Jon Abel of Phoenix Firearms Training.
In his former life, Grant was a world class gunsmith and successful competitive shooter. He’s not ex-this or ex-that which I found to be refreshing. He’s like me – a regular guy who made the commitment to legally carry a gun for self-defense and be as proficient with it as possible.
Above all, he is an educator and an innovator. Two of the primary targets in his classes are conventional wisdom and dogma. It starts with the title of the class – Threat Centered Revolver. We don’t stare at the front sight to the exclusion of all else. To gather information on the threat, we have to look at it. Our primal DNA is going to make us do it anyway. We incorporate the front sight into the engagement. How much depends on distance, time and target size. I won’t get into a detailed description of the course. Instead, I’ll hit the highlights and some key lessons learned.
One of the target points on day 2. The combination of numbers, colors and shapes allows for almost unlimited ways to introduce uncertainty and randomness into the shooting. There are different versions of the target, so some people might not be shooting while the others are. Our exercises got progressively more complicated with math problems we had to solve before we knew what target to shoot. It’s easy to put in no shoot parameters too, like reds or odd numbers.
The pop up target next to it was the highlight of the class. It’s part of the Jedburgh System. The polymer silhouettes are wired into a logic controller that is run with a tablet. Specific scenarios can be set up or they can be completely random, which ours were. Among the randomness was the number of hits it took to knock it down. The guidance on day 2 was if your pop up appears, that’s your primary threat. Engage it until it’s down then finish the string on the target. Reload on the fly as needed and keep your eyes up scanning for targets, not staring at the reload. With five and six shot revolvers, it got pretty intense at times. One thing it makes you do is to keep the gun running. Check your ammo and be prepared to engage at all times. Expect the unexpected. You’ll get it in this class.
Good revolver shooting starts with the grasp on the gun. We don’t hold a revolver the same way we do do a semi-auto. The main difference is where the thumbs go. In a semi, they lay parallel along the gun. On a revolver, the support hand thumb crosses over and locks down the shooting hand thumb. Then we apply a crush grip that stops just short of making the gun tremble. This difference between “layered thumbs” and “locking thumbs” made a huge difference for me in steadiness and recoil recovery.
Grant will tell you that “Revolver grips with finger grooves are the work of Satan”. That’s a direct quote from the first hour. Grooved grips are one size fits all and break up the wall of fingers on the shooting hand that keep the gun under control while firing. That eliminates many popular and cool looking grips.
Self-defense shooting has to be viewed in context. Grant’s training takes place in the private sector context, as opposed to law enforcement, SWAT or the military. Private sector shooting emphasizes surviving a close and unexpected encounter by firing rapid, multiple and accurate hits to stop the threat. As a general rule, we don’t chase people, clear rooms or engage at long distances. The police and the military do that in the context of their environment.
A classmate engages his pop up. Notice the new type of paper target. It’s used to develop an important concept in all handgun shooting – a balance of speed and precision. The bigger targets can be engaged quickly with point shooting. The smaller ones require some good sight alignment and trigger control. The range to the targets is also a factor. So once again, there are multiple variables involved. And of course, you never know when Mr. Pop Up is going to show himself. The Jedburgh System has the potential to revolutionize firearms training. It’s pricey, but Jon at Phoenix Firearms Training took the plunge and incorporates it into most of their classes. He also had to buy a new van to carry it all.
In a threat centered model, we spend most of our time training for the thing that is most likely to happen. In the private sector context, that is a sudden or rapid encounter within 3-7 yards – conversation distance. Farther than that gives you an opportunity to avoid the encounter. If you want to shoot at longer ranges, fine but there’s no need to overdo it. Closer than three yards is extreme close quarters combat which means fighting to your gun. That is not part of Grant’s instruction but it is offered by several prominent trainers like Craig Douglas and Cecil Burch.
I could go on but you get the idea. While we were learning all this and more, we were shooting. There was lots and lots of shooting. I lost track of the round count but I went through an ammo can full of .38 rounds along with a couple of full molle pouches. I’m guessing between 700 and 800 rounds total. That’s more than some four and five day courses I’ve taken.
In threat centered training, we don’t just line up and shoot at bulls eyes on command. Ohhh no. I had one situation where the silhouette came up as I was re-loading with a speed strip. I only had two rounds in the cylinder. Doesn’t matter. Reload’s over. Close the cylinder and start pulling the trigger. A couple of clicks on empty cylinders were followed by two solid hits that knocked it down. It was totally unexpected, unscripted and unrehearsed. Is that great training or what? The whole two days are like that. Training just doesn’t get any better.
And still another type of target. We used these mostly on day 1. You’ve probably figured out by now that one of the central precepts of threat centered training is to put as much uncertainty and randomness as possible into it. It works best with an instructor or a partner calling out strings of fire. However, you can introduce some randomness on your own with cards or dice. You can also invent your own targets with some colored markers and butcher block paper. I’ve bought and shot my last bulls eye target.
The real strength of Grant’s training is the variety and innovation that he brings to the firing line. He’s invented his own targets and he uses them to make you think before (or if) you shoot. In threat centered training, the most effective drills introduce random factors into the scenario which you have to quickly process in making your shoot/no shoot decisions. That’s why you have to look at the target and not blur it out while staring at the front sight post.
I hope this page has given you a good overview of the Threat Centered Revolver class and threat centered training overall. I highly recommend Grant’s classes and books if you are serious about concealed carry. You don’t have to be an elite physical specimen or a pistolero. I’m a retired Marine in my mid-60’s who’s been shooting for decades. I left this class a different and much better shooter. Just bring your gun, a lot of ammo and an open mind. If you want to know more, check out the links above. When Grant brings this back to Phoenix, I’ll be there.
Adios amigos …. Boris