When you first see Gabe White shoot, you’ll notice that there is an audible, “SMACK!” when he draws his Glock 17 from his Keepers Concealment appendix holster. In the days of yore, pistoleros who were quick on the draw were called, “leather slappers.”
I first read about Gabe on PISTOLFORUM and then met him and saw him shoot at the RANGEMASTER TACTICAL CONFERENCE in March of 2018. I was lucky enough to make it into the, “Top 16,” shooters of the competition, of which Gabe was the FIRST PLACE winner. The competition at the conference is always a good test of skill and wits, and it is a friendly competition without a tremendous amount of ego involved. I am always humbled to end up in the competition at all, but mostly, I enjoy seeing my peers do well. Gabe is one of the most humble competitors you will meet, and he will gladly dissect his own performance and describe to you in the smallest of details, where he felt his performance was less than perfect. Of course, to the casual observer, it looks like a masterful performance by any measure!
Gabe’s flagship course is called, “Pistol Shooting Solutions,” and I was honored to host him at the Humphreys County Sheriff’s Office range facility in Waverly, TN. From the time I contacted Gabe about hosting, I was impressed by how precise and technical he was in his requirements for the range and hosting. Gabe designed his course from the ground up to be useful to the consumer. He has taken a number of classes himself, and understands what a good course of instruction should do for his clients. Gabe limits the number of students in the class to fourteen, so that he can closely monitor each student while still running relays that don’t cause too much down time for anyone.
THE ENEMY OF GETTING BETTER IS GOOD ENOUGH
One of the issues with taking classes on a regular basis is that you get good at shooting…and while that is, in the BIG PICTURE, a good thing, for the dedicated student it often results in a plateau of skill development. If you are safe, efficient and consistent in most tactical oriented classes, you won’t get a tremendous amount of direction or coaching on how to improve. Gabe’s class was quite different in this regard. Immediately, I learned a number of actionable improvements from Gabe that I was able to incorporate into my shooting that resulted in immediate improvements, of which I will expound on in detail below.
We had students in the class of all levels, from newer shooters to professional gun users (law enforcement) who EACH received individualized feedback, independent of their experience level. In addition to the qualitative feedback, Gabe also provides a mechanism for systematized testing in a series of four graded standards, that not only reward a good skill set, but also let the student establish benchmarks for the future that they can compare their own performance to. Gabe gives three awards, in ascending order of achievement, the DARK PIN, LIGHT PIN and TURBO PIN. This class was the first in history to have two TURBO PIN recipients, Randy Harris and John Hearne. I’ve trained with both of them in the past, and both are PHENOMENAL shooters!
THE RIGHT HAND OF DOOM
I’ve been training now for 28 years, and in that time, I have gone through a number of life changes, including changes in work (and work gear), playing rugby, lifting weights, gaining weight/losing weight, conditioning exercise and various other activities and injuries that have left my body in its current state. Because of my almost daily repetitive work involving the forceful removal of human teeth from people, my wrists, elbows and shoulders take a literal BEATING that has transferred, somewhat unconsciously, into my shooting habits, and how I handle the gun. One of the things that has suffered has been my draw speed. Even when I think I am moving quickly to the gun, I am NOT. Gabe noticed this and told me that if I could speed up my draw, and get to the gun quicker, I would knock a good chunk of time off of my presentation. The exercise he showed me to get up to speed was to start from the ready position of my choice, and then swat my hand to the gun, quickly, like a karate chop (remember the audible SLAP when Gabe gets his hand to the gun?) and then acquire the firing grip. He had my try this several times, without drawing, and just quickly slapping my hand to the holstered pistol. After about the fifth time, he said, “NOW GET TO THE GUN THAT FAST.” I did, and HOLY SMOKES, it worked! I immediately saw an appreciable increase in my presentation/time to first shot. Once, later in the day, John Hearne noticed that my time to the gun was slipping again and I was lagging, which I’m sure was just force of habit returning and also fatigue, so I reverted back to the slapping exercise to restore my draw’s vigor. In my past training, I’d never had anyone say anything like, “GET TO THE GUN QUICKER,” and then show me an exercise that is literally so simple to do, to illustrate how to make that happen. That was extremely helpful.
THE 1000 YARD WINK
During the lunch break on the first training day, Gabe gave an optional lecture on vision. Through a series of demonstrations, he showed us all how our eyes can focus on only one point at a time. In shooting, this is significant, since we normally look at the target, then draw our gun, find the front sight, then begin shooting once we have a hard front sight focus. This contraction of the ciliary muscle and bending of the lense in the eye takes time…and if you’re a bit older, it takes even more time! An over abundance of time is one thing you DO NOT have when either the stakes are high in a shooting match, or when the stakes can’t be any higher than in a fight to save your life! Gabe described a technique to the class that allows the capable student to be able to immediately change their focus to the, “intermediate focal plane,” or that empty cube of space that exists at about arm’s length distance in front of the shooter’s face, where their pistol’s slide and front sight will eventually end up at the final point of their presentation. By starting with their focus at this point, upon presentation of the pistol, the eye is already calibrated to see the front sight crisply and clearly, and the additional step of changing focus from the target to the front sight is eliminated. Gabe said that about one person in fourteen will be able to use this ability, and other people simply wouldn’t. Much to my surprise, I found that I COULD actually see in the intermediate focal plane, with relative ease. I attribute this to my years of using microscopes in the applied sciences and in surgery. After lunch, the benefits of seeing the sights more accurately and quickly was readily apparent! I wish that I had known about the ability before lunch, as it would have made the shot-calling drills easier, as well as determining what was an acceptable sight picture for a shot. Next time!
People have been saying, “See what you need to see,” in the firearms training industry since at least the time of Jeff Cooper, and probably before! But much like, “PRESS THE TRIGGER,” it is something that is often said, but rarely understood. In the event that a novice instructor tells a student that phrase and it actually solves their problem, it’s probably more likely due to luck then to the acumen of the instructor! But with the ability to see in the intermediate focal plane, SEEING WHAT YOU NEED TO SEE becomes a genuine reality! I’ve never before experienced a feeling in shooting quite as acute as that. The closest analogy of precision I can liken it to is using an EOTECH reticle on an M4 type rifle. The large, aviation-grade reticle is so easy to see, superimposed over the target, that you know EXACTLY where the gun is pointed when you press the shot. With a hard front sight focus on presentation, you can see instantly where the gun is pointed and how you need to course correct to achieve the desired directional adjustment. Using a brightly painted front sight (I used Warren Sevigny sights with the front sight painted red orange with Birchwood Casey sight paint) I was acutely aware of not only the immediate location of my front sight, but also the detail of the sight, down to the horizontal serrations and the areas where the edges of the paint had rubbed off, or picked up the faux-suede lining of my Safariland duty holster. In years past, I never noticed such details.
Take this course. Regardless of where you feel you are in your study of shooting, if you are safe, and capable of good accuracy on demand, Gabe will make you better. In the graded standards we shot, I was able to score in the LIGHT PIN range, which I hope to continue to improve on, and return to retake this course again, and earn the vaunted TURBO PIN. Prior to this course, I think I was a strong DARK PIN shooter, but honing my skills with just a few additional input changes from Gabe made all of the difference. It seems silly that only a few minor tweaks could have such a profound effect, but really, when you consider what technical and combat shooting is, it is really a simple series of motor skills and eye-hand coordination events that culminate in the symphony of light, sound and downrange effect that we see and take for granted. Shaving fractions of a second off of the draw and presentation by increasing efficiency (it doesn’t take many shaves before your NEW time surpasses your BEST old times) is only to the betterment of the shooter…nothing is lost in the pursuit. And when you consider that to excel at Gabe’s drills you still have to strive for 100% accuracy, or else suffer the time penalty consequences, then it makes the pursuit all that more attractive.
This was just a cursory discussion of the course. Much of what I learned I’ll keep to myself, as I think it does both you (the reader) and I a disservice; there’s too much to tell! Get to Gabe’s class and see what you can pull out of it! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
THANKS FOR READING!