After-action report:  

GSL Defense Training’s
NRA Personal Protection in the Home class

by Dr. Doug Rokke
Major, retired, U. S. Army
(Gun Save Life) – I had the distinct pleasure to participate as a student in the GSL Defense Training NRA Personal Protection in the Home class taught at Darnall’s Gun Works and Ranges in Bloomington on April 30 and May 1, 2011.

The class was large (36) and diverse – with young and old from a variety of professions.  There were also lots of instructors and many were familiar faces I’m used to seeing at Guns Save Life meetings.  John Boch was teaching, along with Frank Wright, Bonnie Garrett, John Naese and Pete Wheeler.  Jeff Schwarm, Matt Skaj, Dan Heaton, Jon Maier and Scott Bowyer also were helping.  Some had been teaching for well over a decade (or several decades in the case of Mr. Wright, a retired FBI Special Agent and federal law enforcement instructor).  One, Mr. Bowyer, was brand new.  They were all patient, skilled and helpful.

One unique aspect of this class, our instructors told us, was the record number of females (17) enrolled.  It was my pleasure to be the “token male” in the women’s group when the class was split into shooting relays.  It gave me a unique perspective to watch the ladies’ confidence and abilities grow as they learned new skills.

They were ready, willing, and eager to learn too.  Each of the women came prepared to participate in all classroom and range activities that provided each of us opportunities to acquire and master numerous aspects of using a revolver or semi-auto pistol for personal protection.

We had excellent classroom instruction covering all aspects of gun safety and storage, gun selection, and ammo selection; followed by hands on instruction and practice on the range. Dry fire practice, especially for us wheel gun lovers, allowed each us to optimize our hold, sight alignment, and proper trigger pull.

We then progressed through various initial drills beginning with firing a single round under the watchful eyes of the instructor staff.  They helped each person individually to correct technique errors through verbal instruction, direct demonstration, and hands on coaching.

Soon we were firing strings of five or six rounds.  Patient and knowledgeable instructors helped us through each and every stage.

The instructors ran two ranges at once to keep us busy while outside shooting.   After firing the first shots, my relay group then progressed to barricade shooting while the other half of the class worked on various drills, building upon the fundamentals.  Then we switched places with the other group.

We finished out the day with a law lecture from Frank Wright and a discussion of the practical aspects of avoiding victimhood, interacting with potential bad guys and the practical aspects of using deadly force with John Boch.  Should you ever need to use deadly force,  Boch also covered interacting with witnesses and responding officers.  “If any doubt exists, hold the gun silent,” Boch told us.  “Just because you’re justified in shooting doesn’t mean that’s the best course of action.”

On the second day, after a great lecture on home defense by John Naese, we went back outside to shoot.

Under the careful eye of an instructor, each of us performed a “shoot and move” exercise where each of the ladies or me sidestepped, without crossing our legs or stepping on the other foot, between barricades, using cover to engage multiple bad-guy targets after shouting commands.    It was the highlight of the outdoor range experience for me.  It was an extremely beneficial and enjoyable exercise which required thorough concentration on each of the marksmanship fundamentals and the gun safety rules that we learned in the classroom.  It was awkward at first, but as we did it a few times, it went faster and smoother each time.  It was so much fun that the girls and I just wanted to keep practicing it over and over again.   The enthusiastic instructors obliged and we all had a lot of fun!!

When we switched out, we learned malfunction clearing drills for the ladies with semi-autos while the wheelgun shooters practiced ball and dummy drills.

The final individual shooting exercise involved a realistic scenario where we were victims of a home invasion at night.  A pair of intruders were at our bedroom door and we, as students, had taken the ensconced defender position in our safe room to protect our family from death or severe bodily injury.

Sounds easy enough, but the instructors took us out of our comfort zone by taking away most of the light and adding the stress of noise – in this case a siren, people shouting, gunfire and more as we finished loading.  We were also told to communicate with the bad guy.  Sometimes the bad guys didn’t wait for us to finish loading or shouting before they attacked – kind of like it would be in real life!

Our spouses, sometimes simulated, other times real for many of the students, stood beside us and learned how to hold the light while you shot at one static target (halfway obscured by cover – the side of the door frame) and a second target hurtling towards you from about fifteen feet away.  Over your other shoulder was an instructor carefully watching for safety and technique.

The exercise tied together everything we had learned and practiced during two days of instruction.  Each student had to decide when and where to shoot to stop an attack after exhausting attempts to dissuade the attacker.  It was stressful, but incredibly useful, exciting and fun.

The women excelled at this too!

Frank Wright delivered an informative second legal lecture Sunday afternoon, on the judicious use of deadly force against both armed and “unarmed” aggressors.

The weekend instruction concluded with a review session followed by a written examination.  Yes, boys and girls, we need to measure how much knowledge we acquired and more importantly find out what we still do not understand so we can immediately correct that deficiency.

And to put a smile on the face of each instructor and a boost of pride, I heard over and over during each phase of the class and as we packed up to leave, and even since I came home how dedicated, patient, and knowledgeable each and every instructor was as they helped each of us to acquire and master the knowledge and skills taught in the course.

Lunches were catered by the Darnall’s and were wonderful.  The classroom was a little cozy, but we managed.  And the weather was a lot better than what was initially forecast, too.  All in all it was a great weekend and I and my fellow students all had a great time.

In conclusion, I heartily recommend that everyone whether they are a novice or experienced in handling pistols or revolvers to enroll in and complete this extremely beneficial and exceptional course.  I sure learned a lot and I sure improved my own proficiency thanks to exceptional instruction and I’m sure you will too.