AAR, Shotgun Refresher (Louis Awerbuck), 5 Sept 2012

Discussion in 'Strategies, Tactics, and Training' started by Fred Fuller, Sep 7, 2012.

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  1. Fred Fuller

    Fred Fuller Moderator Emeritus

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    Location:
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    Date - 5 Sept 2012
    Place - Durham Pistol and Rifle Club (DPRC), Mebane, NC - http://dprc.org/
    Duration - One day/7 hours
    Point Of Contact - http://www.yfainc.com/

    I was really pleased to see this class come up on Yavapai's schedule this summer. Louis sometimes pays return visits to DPRC on his swing back west, and several of the students in the May Handgun Refresher class asked for a Shotgun Refresher this time around. And so it came up on the schedule in due time.

    As this was a refresher class, there was a prerequisite: a basic shotgun class from Louis or some other instructor. This wasn't a basic class and, since Louis' basic shotgun class is a three day affair, a lot had to be covered in just seven hours of range time.

    There was no classroom session, but everyone arrived about half an hour early to get the safety briefing and necessary paperwork done in order to maximize range time. There were eleven students, all male this time. Equipment was mostly conventional with the exception of one student who wanted to work with his new (75 - 100 rounds on the gun) KSG (KelTec Shotgun, the new twin magazine bullpup). The others brought mostly Remington 870s, one Winchester 1300 and one Winchester SLP, a couple of Benelli M1 Super 90s and one Remington 11-87. Oddly there were no Mossbergs in this class. Shells were kept handy in Sidesaddles, skeet vests, shotgun bandoliers, one BBQ apron and one nail apron, various belt pouches, belt mounted speed loaders and pants pockets. Ammo loadout was 150 birdshot, 30 slugs and 30 buckshot.

    The day was not as punishingly hot as it might have been in early September in NC, starting in the upper 80's and climbing through the low to mid 90's in the afternoon. But it was humid, and off and on very still as the light breeze died away from time to time. Conditions in the morning made the gunsmoke hang in a haze on the range, confined by the berms/trees to the point where it almost became choking, until a breeze swept it away.

    The range we used was a 50-yard pistol range with a tin-roofed range shed at the rear. DPRC has a very nice facility, and it's always a pleasure to visit there. Louis has had DPRC on his training circuit since he went on the road full time in 1988 after leaving Gunsite, and has a dedicated following of students in the area. Class coordinator Jim Parris has been working with Louis for many of those years, and always makes sure everything goes as smoothly as possible.

    Louis works out of a full size pickup truck with a tonneau cover, and carries what he needs to teach a variety of classes from facility to facility. The itinerant shooting schools like Yavapai Firearms Academy bring the class to you (or at least close by) rather than requiring travel to and lodging at a fixed location that might be half way or all the way across the country. All the instructor needs is a suitable safe flat range, and class is on. It's a great training model for the students - how the instructors keep it up year after year, I don't know.

    The target setup for this class was all paper or cardboard, no steel this time around. Mainly the targets were all negative - cardboard silhouettes with 8" holes cut out of the middle. Louis said he wasn't unloading 600 pounds of steel out of the bottom of the truck bed for a one day class 8^). And I don't blame him a bit. A few years back I got one of the guys doing special armor plate steel deals here on THR to cut me three "lollipops" (swingers) like Louis uses for shotguns (a 10" circle on a 4" wide 'hanger' about 18" long - except Louis uses six of them, on a stand made of galvanized pipe), and they are a real pain to move. But the cardboard targets worked out OK, and with less danger of splash at closer range as well than steel could guarantee. And we did a good bit of work in close this time, down near the berm, all with an emphasis on speed, watching and engaging multiple targets, covering down and keeping a safe distance with the mounted shotgun out of easy reach of a hostile grab or rush. As I said earlier, this wasn't an intro class. But there was no go-round with the Mirage target system this time either, since there wasn't time. And I missed that drill - it's always a challenge. Not familiar with the Mirage? It's diabolical - see http://www.yfainc.com/mirage.html.

    With eleven shooters in the class, students were divided into two relays - one of six and one of five. With everyone having had previous experience at this sort of thing we got things under way promptly. The morning session was essentially a rehash of the basics - running the gun safely, reloading on the fly, patterning, shooting and hitting. Or in this case, NOT hitting, since we were supposed to be shooting through the holes already cut in the targets, not making new ones. Again, shooting was at relatively short range such that patterns had no chance to open up enough to damage the cardboards - unless someone pulled a shot. Then the nice round hole in the cardboard got ragged. Interestingly enough, the early raggedness provided clues to Louis as to what given students were doing wrong, and he was able to offer specific corrections to help. Louis is a superb diagnostician and can see things students are doing that cause problems that the students don't even know they are doing themselves.

    The Rolling Thunder drill this time was a lot different - given only 7 hours on the range, there wasn't time to do it all the way through, so Louis started in the middle with shooters numbered out of sequence and round counts out of sequence too. Rolling Thunder is enough of a brain melter when learned from scratch in an easy sequence, but starting in the middle like that with a bunch of rusty shooters was a recipe for hilarity. Or so it seemed to the various onlookers at the range shed, anyway .

    My relay worked out a plan in the allotted 3-minute planning period that the onlookers thought was way too complicated, but it worked out great for us. I was the second shooter of six, counting from left to right on the line, there were six students in my relay, but I was designated Shooter Number Four, and was therefore obligated to start out by firing four rounds in my first string. Unfortunately for me, Shooter Number Three had his gun go down (the Win SLP) and so it was a good thing I was stuffing shells into my 870 like mad as soon as I finished shooting my string every time. Because every time Shooter Number Two called on Shooter Number Three to shoot his string, Shooter Number Three had to pass due to a deadlined gun and immediately call on me - "FOUR!" to shoot. Fortunately, after my second string (five rounds) it got easier, because my next string was only one round, the next was two, the next was three and the drill was over for me. Whew!

    In preparation for Rolling Thunder, I had taken the main 870 I planned to use for the class (I carried a spare 870, too) out on our range at home and put a full box of birdshot through it as fast as I could load and shoot it. And then I gave it a thorough cleaning, especially the chamber and barrel. Rolling Thunder gets you a hot gun, very quickly, and you find out that some shotguns, even pump guns, just won't run when the barrel is that hot. Since Rolling Thunder in some ways simulates a firefight, you find out how dependable your gun (and load) might be in a real pinch. It's a good idea to run 15 rounds or so of whatever your "duty" load is through your gun to make sure it will function when hot, and cleaning is good too - the SLP was choking on carbon buildup. Go to class, learn stuff - what a concept!

    Following the weird abbreviated Rolling Thunder we did lateral step (four steps left - four steps right) and shoot drills in relays for a bit to get back into practice shooting on the move. Having spent the morning getting 'tuned up,' we then broke for lunch - and after exactly an hour we were back on the range, for the kind of drills that make a shotgun class with Louis especially memorable.

    We started out with non-firing transition drills (shotgun to pistol), beginning with a quick pistol drawstroke review, then practicing slinging or trapping the shotgun while drawing the pistol. Having reviewed the material, we went on to practice the same drills live fire. And then we practiced transitions back from pistol to shotgun, so we could work transitions both ways.

    We did "select slug" drills in the afternoon, with Louis' particular twist. The target array was six negative (shoot through the hole in the middle, don't hit the cardboard, remember) cardboards in a straight line, with a paper camo target of the design that Louis uses offset to the side and rear at each end of the line of cardboards. The cardboards were for shot, the paper targets for slugs. Shooters worked in two rows, not in relays, the left hand row had the left hand targets (three cardboards and one paper) and the right hand row got the target array on the right - also three cardboards and a paper target. This added a little additional complication, having another shooter sort of in competition added a little more pressure. You couldn't help hearing the other student's shots and wanting to finish before he did. Pressure in training is good...

    After the first rotation of one shot on each type of target to get everyone accustomed to the idea of "shot on cardboard, slug on paper," Louis called a different target set for each pair of shooters. Shooters came to the line with only shot in the guns and had to run slugs as targets were called, with one shot round per target when "cardboard" was called (that is, if the target call was TWO CARDBOARD ONE PAPER, one shot round was fired at each of two cardboard targets and one slug at the paper target) and slugs only on the one paper target.

    When the target calls evolved to things like CARDBOARD PAPER CARDBOARD PAPER it started getting interesting, that meant that a shooter with shot in the chamber and magazine either loaded a slug, fired the round of shot in the chamber at cardboard, ran the bolt, then fired the first slug at paper, ran another round of shot into the chamber, loaded another slug into the magazine and repeated the sequence...

    Or did it the hard way (especially if they started out with an absolutely full magazine and no room to load a slug in the magazine first off) - fire the round of shot in the chamber on cardboard, run the bolt, load a slug into the magazine, run the bolt again (ejecting a live round of shot in the process), fire the slug on paper, run the bolt, and if they weren't too frazzled, load another slug and fire the chambered round of shot on cardboard, run the bolt again and fire the second slug on paper. Or screw up the sequence somewhere along the way and, while getting yelled at by a hyperactive man with a South African accent, have to "FIX IT, FIX IT FIX IT!".

    When you finished an iteration you could load as many shot rounds as you wanted, with one in the chamber, before you rotated off the firing line to the end of the line of shooters. NO ONE came up to the firing line with a completely fully loaded gun after the first time around ... :D.

    Oh - and there were pistol transitions (on verbal command) thrown in among the select slug drills for good measure as well.

    The last drill as I recall was one I don't know the formal name for, but having done it in several of Louis' classes I have come up with my own name for it - the Cluster Flock. The target array consists of six cardboards on target stands in two rows of three, stapled on the stands at alternating 45 degree angles, about a foot apart in both directions, offset by about half a target width on the back row. The drill started with the student front and center at a range of about 20 feet from the front row of targets, and Louis assigned a target (or let the student choose one), then commanded repeatedly LEFT - RIGHT - IN - OUT to get the single shooter moving as directed and engaging ONE selected target in the cluster - without hitting any of the other targets with projectiles, either going in or coming out. Transition to pistol was signaled by a tap on the back of the student's head or a verbal command of PISTOL! Since this was an individual drill, we spent the rest of the afternoon working everyone through it, and then we wrapped up the day.
     
  2. conw

    conw Member

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    This lends itself to a different interpretation of Louis's statement that "the state of the art is a moving target." :p
     
  3. Fred Fuller

    Fred Fuller Moderator Emeritus

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    Some other reports, notes and observations...

    AMMO - Louis says he's seeing problems with lots of ammo in classes these days, major problems. So far, Hornady, Fiocchi and Black Hills seem to be doing best. All the ATK owned companies have gone downhill on ammo quality control. I didn't notice anyone having any difficulties that were ammo related in class Wednesday. I had none - I shot Remington birdshot (1 ounce loads) in black hulls, Remington reduced recoil buckshot (green hulls) and Winchester reduced recoil slugs (white hulls). Color coding ammo in a class makes it easier IMHO to keep your stuff sorted out, this is more critical when shooting steel (don't want to ding steel with a slug at 20 feet) than when targets are cardboard/paper.

    SHOTGUN ISSUES - Pretty few this class. The SLP was choking on carbon, hadn't been cleaned in too long. Some ATF (transmission fluid) and scrubbing on the mag tube plus some action cleaning and lube took care of that in short order.

    The student with the 11-87 needed some lube in his gun about 2PM also - he was running it too dry for it to be able to work that hard. He was also shooting a Patternmaster (wad retarding type) choke tube that was throwing slugs all over the target at 50 yards. It was also spitting particles of something - plastic or lead - out of its ports, at the students on either side - who objected. I loaned him a plain ImpCyl RemChoke out of my toolbox and he could suddenly shoot groups again, and not pepper his relay with particulates.

    The 1300 lost its aftermarket stick-on front sight, that shooter didn't have a backup gun and so ran the rest of the class on Kentucky windage. He was a good instinctive shooter, ranges were close and he did well despite no front sight.

    The KSG was interesting, the first one I've seen for real. I'd say is just too complex for most folks, especially those already accustomed to other shotguns. Not just IMHO, but Louis thinks so too, and he's shot one (I haven't, I just watched when I could in class). Too many controls, too many options (two magazine tubes and a magazine selector to choose between them), just too much to keep track of under pressure. And mainly, the worst thumbs down of all for me from the getgo, it's too hard to load on the fly, since it's a bullpup and the loading port is behind the pistol grip. I had a bullpup for years, a semiauto at that, a High Standard 10-A. Sold it, but bought another example a couple of years ago. Great shotgun - for five rounds. Then forget it, dump it and go to something else.

    Same deal with the KSG - if your gunfight is shorter than 15 rounds, and you can remember how to run the gun through a mag change without something bad happening, you're golden.

    PERSONAL - I have the utmost respect for Louis and Leigh and the work they've been doing since 1988. I don't know any better defensive shooting instructor working today than Louis Awerbuck. I'm not saying there aren't any, but I haven't seen them at work yet. His ability to diagnose a student's problem and offer useful options for a solution on the spot is unsurpassed in my experience. I am always amazed at how perceptive he is and how fast he can move when working the line, if he sees a student in trouble or about to do something unsafe. Yet through it all his range patter is shot through with the driest humor I've ever heard. Training with Louis is an experience not to be missed.
     
  4. Rexster

    Rexster Member

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    Thanks! I really should try to attend Mr. Awerbuck's shotgun training. I wish his 2013 schedule was posted, as I must request my blocks of annual leave by the end of October of the preceding year. It would be nice to see him return to Lousiana again, as that would be close enough that I would not need to take a large block of leave.
     
  5. Fred Fuller

    Fred Fuller Moderator Emeritus

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    Rexster,

    If you know who coordinated the last class in Louisiana, talk to them and see if they can discuss it with Louis. There's nothing from 2013 on the schedule yet, and it may be a bit before dates begin to appear.

    http://www.yfainc.com/schedule.html
     
  6. Rexster

    Rexster Member

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    Thanks; I searched, and it seems the entity that had hosted Mr. Awerbuck in Louisiana is now defunct, or at least no longer maintains their website.

    Thankfully, there are a couple of local guys who can get me up to speed, and keep me trained, until I get a chance to travel. I have neglected my shotgunning for too long.
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2012
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