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Training is critical for anyone who carries or uses a firearm for self-protection, and training to save your life or another’s is serious business. Unfortunately, there are many instructors with fabricated firearms experience, which makes it difficult to find practical training. Althought doctrine is important, a professional instructor is imperative.

Doctrine, tactics and techniques are available anywhere these days, but it takes an experienced and trained instructor to impart them properly. Real-world experience is certainly important, but the industry is littered with true experts exhibiting zero teaching skills. Spending a few days hearing war stories is entertaining but worthless without real instruction. You really need someone who has skills and the ability to teach them—and Larry Mudgett of Marksmanship Matters is one such instructor.

Learn from the Best

Larry is the real deal. Serving in Vietnam at only 19 years old in the First Air Cavalry, Larry has survived several fights and emerged as a decorated combat veteran. He joined the LAPD in 1969 and worked with them for 35 years in the most violent areas. With 14 years on the SWAT team and 13 years as the training division’s chief firearms instructor, Larry has actually been there and done that. He has also trained, shot and competed with Jack Weaver, Ray Chapman and Colonel Jeff Cooper—pioneers in combat shooting. In fact, Larry either has invented or witnessed the invention of much of what firearms instructors teach today.
Marksmanship Matters instructor Stacey Mudgett is an LAPD veteran with 11 years of service. Having worked South Central LA for years, she has experienced what may be the closest thing to urban combat in the U.S. One of the few who were members of both the Urban Police Rifle Cadre and the Tactical Slug Cadre, Stacey is an experienced long-gun instructor also qualified with several handguns. She is an experienced SASS shooter and has earned many awards.

The Defensive Pistol course encompasses Marksmanship Matters’ basic pistol doctrine and runs for five days, including three days on the range. It is offered one day at a time, usually Saturdays, or over one week. The course is designed to establish the fundamentals of fighting with a pistol.

Total Insurance

On day one, it became immediately clear that this class is about real-world application. Larry leaves no doubt that using a pistol for self-defense is no laughing matter. Strong advocates of Second Amendment rights, Larry and Stacey believe you should always be armed, explaining that your firearm is an “insurance policy you hope never to use.” But, like insurance, you can’t use it if you don’t have it. When you’ve chosen to use your weapon, you must do whatever it takes to stop the threat. Use “all necessary force to ensure your survival.” It is critical you do not “restrain yourself to death.” Larry has witnessed firsthand officers and civilians dying as a result of their self-restraint.

You also need to finish the fight. Stopping in the middle of the fight does not ensure success. You must exploit and press the point of advantage until you win. It is about staying alive to continue you role as a parent, child or sibling. Your life is important, so fight to protect it. The rest of day one was spent on explaining the need for safety on the range. By establishing the proper mindset, the remainder of the class was not only valuable but also safe for all.

Day two was all about dry-fire practice and weapons manipulations. Too often, new shooters must struggle through a half-day of lectures on how dangerous firearms are, followed by their attempts to manipulate—with little or no training—weapons on the range. This can be downright frightening for many new shooters. Dummy rounds were used to build the basis for pistol manipulations in a completely safe environment. At the range, students safely loaded, unloaded and manipulated their pistols several times. This also gave Larry and Stacey the opportunity to identify any equipment issues, such as unsafe firearms, holsters, etc., prior to live-firing.

Day three focuses on marksmanship, enforcing the principles that “you cannot miss fast enough to win” and you cannot stop a threat if you don’t hit it. Getting hits is what it’s all about. Larry and Stacey start by shooting for groups at 15 yards. This ensures there is no mechanical issue with each student’s pistol—especially critical with adjustable sights. Then students shot the same groups, where errors in sight alignment or trigger control can first appear.

Along with basic loading, unloading and presentation (draw) skills, the morning was spent applying trigger drills. These four drills identify errors when pressing the trigger and aligning the sights—quickly revealing who is failing to aim properly. These and subsequent drills provided students with a solid understanding of how to press the trigger and achieve a surprise break. In my case, the drills identified a subtle issue that affected my accuracy. Although it is pretty rare for me to anticipate the trigger, I was geting some high shots from applying too much pressure on the trigger during the follow-through.

Larry and Stacey covered skip-loading, perhaps the most valuable course element for me, in the afternoon. Skip-loading involves randomly mixing inert rounds with live rounds, giving the shooter a truly surprise break. Skip-loading can really get you dialed in, and help identify trigger errors and recoil anticipation. Larry and Stacey also had students teach each other to gain a better understanding of the various drills and how they are properly applied.

Making Contact

On day four, additional trigger drills, including shooting with greater speed, were introduced. Students also started to shoot targets from different directions. These exercises shifted the focus from just shooting accurately to doing so in a fight. Like all true martial arts, it is all about applying the fundamentals in the real world. This includes acquiring a sight picture under stress, achieving a surprise break on the trigger and controlling your pistol with the proper Weaver stance. Students engaged multiple targets with multiple rounds, with shots directed toward center-mass and the head. Drills were timed to induce stress, and students were given the opportunity to practice live-fire, close-contact drills. Throughout the day, students were expected to get solid hits regardless of time, position or stress level.

The last day brought everything together. Starting with skip-loading drills to get dialed in, students then moved on to decision-making. Shoot/no-shoot scenarios illustrated how simply pressing the trigger is not enough—knowing when and where to shoot is critical. This is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to using your pistol in a fight.

Shooting out to 50 yards brings confidence to your shooting. Adding “accelerated” and “controlled” pairs emphasizes the flash sight picture. The Harries flashlight technique, a proven and simple method for using a flashlight with a pistol while in the Weaver stance, is critical for real-world fighting. Larry also provided a lecture on fighting from your vehicle. Given the time most people spend in their cars, knowing this is essential. You learn the limitations and advantages of the car and how to safely deploy your firearms from both the driver and passenger positions. This was followed by a live-fire exercise that takes place in a car. The day ends with some time on the dueling tree, which added some stress and further identified any trigger manipulation errors. It was also a ton of fun and had us all finishing the course in a fantastic mood.

Pro Foundation

Everything about this school was professional. The instructors have real backgrounds and extensive training experience. The Defensive Pistol course was expertly organized, run and presented. Larry and Stacey are patient but direct, offering focused and serious training along with plenty of laughs. The course is truly geared toward the new shooter. I would feel confident sending a loved one who has never used a gun before to this class. I am not sure you can get a better foundation for pistol shooting in the real world.

Both Larry and Stacey are passionate about what they do—this is not a certificate mill. Larry has seen his teaching save lives, so if you are there to show him what you know, don’t bother. On the other hand, if you are open to improvement, you just may come away from this course having learned something. Marksmanship Matters offers one of the most proven and comprehensive training systems for civilians. The entire week costs $550, less than half of many less-accomplished schools. It may be the best money you ever spend, and it may save your life. For more information, visit marksmanshipmatters.com or call 801-669-1886.

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