I’ve known Chuck Haggard for years. First as an online buddy on the old GOTX and TPI forums of the early 00’s. Then in person through the Paulepalooza Memorial training events that began in 2012. Chuck is a unique guy in the training industry…he’s literally done it all. He’s one of the few guys around that can chew up a problem from the perspective of a military serviceman, a police officer or an armed civilian. I’ve trained with Chuck in the past and we’ve both audited each other’s classes. Chuck was recently in Nashville teaching for two days, and I had a break in my schedule, which allowed me to attend.
Chuck calls the class I attended, “Pocket Rockets,” but it’s really just a catchy name. What’s a pocket gun for one person, might be a full-size gun to a smaller human. The chief difference between a full size or compact sized pistol and a pocket rocket could be defined as the size the pistol relative to the size of the user. I’ve known people who have pocket carried Glock 19’s and done it well, and I’ve seen people who couldn’t pocket carry a J frame in normal clothes, because that would be too big for them, and it would defeat the purpose of carrying a concealed gun that is obviously NOT concealed.
The point of the class is to be able to achieve precision hits on target, with speed but more importantly, adapt the user’s normal manual of arms to smaller sized guns. I used a SIG P365, as did many others. Several people used Glock 43, 43X and 48’s. One man had a Beretta 21 in .22LR and a few others had weirdos like the Shadow Systems guns, which I know almost nothing about. As anyone who goes from using a full size pistol to a smaller pistol knows, malfunction clearance can prove challenging. The TAP portion of the TAP-RACK-BANG (or TAP-RACK-REASSESS) is difficult to pull off with a small gun because if you’ve got a solid grip, and the gun only has room for one or two of your fingers at the bottom of it, you end up smacking your own hand. Conversely, ejecting a mag with the gun in your grip can also be delayed because your hand prevent the mag from falling free. Chuck has come up with a few solid operation algorithms that overcome that hang up, without drastically changing the way that you might have already programmed yourself to do them. I won’t give away Chuck’s secret sauce, and you’ll still have to take the class to learn them, but they work! Chuck is a master instructor so he understands that there isn’t a one shot solution for every person, and he teaches several different manipulations and one of them is bound to work for you, even if you lack significant hand strength, or coordination. Chuck has tricks! He’ll get you through it!
The course took place at the GLOCK STORE in Nashville on their 270 degree shooting range. The range has movable backstops that allow 270 degrees of fire. The range was lit but had very subdued lighting. And it was variable from the middle of the range to the edges of it. It was the first time in maybe forever that I was glad I had tritium sights on my gun, as it was difficult to see the sights on my Smith M15 when we shot the evening section with our revolvers! I had to dip/duck the front sight to pick up the edge. At 3 yards it wasn’t a big deal, but out at 10 and 15 and further, that obviously makes a difference. Even though I had painted the front blade with orange model paint, there wasn’t enough contrast to see. If you’ve shot Smith OEM adjustable sights (not the recent iterations) you know there isn’t a lot of space around that front blade…there is even less in low light!
We concluded the Pocket Rocket class with a qualification course with Chuck demonstrating each phase of the course. The range for each phase started at 3 yards and progressed to 25 yards. Getting solid hits, at 25 yards, with a 3” barrel gun, in poor light, with a time crunch, was challenging but also rewarding!
I think people often take classes like Chuck’s thinking that their performance with a smaller gun will be comparable to their capabilities with a full size (full size gun FOR THEM). But the truth is, little guns are harder to shoot. You have less sight radius, smaller guts inside the guns and thus operational idiosyncrasies, and truncated barrels that sacrifice ballistic performance in already marginally effective pistol ballistics. Small guns are lighter, there’s more recoil and less barrel so more unburnt powder and muzzle blast. So it’s a wake up call for many students! I’ve been using a J frame Smith of some kind for my entire adult life, so I wasn’t unaware of the hazards of downsizing to a smaller gun. But under pressure, when you really need it, you can’t expect the skills of the full size gun to translate to the smaller one…it’s a different animal entirely.
I was both shocked and amused by the number of students who had used guns that they actually carried but hadn’t tested. Meaning, they had a Glock 43X, that they added an optic, sights, a magwell and extended mag release to, but hadn’t tested it to see if they all worked together. One person’s gun wouldn’t fire more than one round without a malfunction because theit mags weren’t compatible with the magwell, and or the release. Luckily they figured that out in the class instead of in a parking lot somewhere! Testing your equipment, under the eye of a master instructor like Chuck, is important especially if you don’t necessarily know what you need to be looking out for. Very few machines in existence IMPROVE their performance with added complexity. The design requires miniaturization already, and stacking more parts on it for a negligible increase in performance can be a dubious foray into absurdity. Unless you can shoot to the mechanical accuracy of the gun, most people would benefit from the minimalist approach. I’m still undecided on the SHIELD magazines for the Glock 43X and 48. I know people that have success with them, but I’ve also seen a number of them fail. I chose to go with, “eleven for sure,” in my 43X, but you’re welcome to use what you like. I enjoy having the availability of a nearly 50 state legal pistol in stock configuration, but that’s my view.
At the end of the training day for POCKET ROCKETS, we had a ballistic gel lab where Chuck shot a number of rounds into a block of CLEAR GEL ballistic gelatin out of short barrels to see if the performance, penetration wise, was still within the bounds of effectiveness. As you no doubt recall, the FBI specifies 12-18” of penetration after passing through 4 layers of denim. Chuck fired a number of rounds, including my carry round, the SuperVel 115 grain solid copper projectile. The round went about 16” with great expansion and 100% weight retention. The SuperVel 115 grain is a round that shoots well in both my full size M&P as well as my P365 and Shield/Shield Plus. It’s widely available by mail-order on SuperVel’s website, and was one of the few defensive loadings that didn’t dry up during the pandemic. Chuck told us that many of the mono-metal projectiles like the SuperVel and DPX type rounds perform well in gelatin and have similarly good performance in actual shootings as well. I’ve heard similar intel from Professor John Farnam, another trusted source. I shot two mags (I rotate carry ammo on daylight savings time…change the clock, change the carry ammo), and it was THE most accurate ammo I shot all day. I used TULA 9mm steel case and aside from the impressive flash and fire tornado it launched at the target, it was boringly reliable and shot to the sights.
Wrapping up the long day, Chuck ended with a three hour session for wheelguns. I brought two…my Smith M15 2” and a Smith 66 2.5”. I shot a variety of 158 grain lead and LSWC as well as 130 grain flat nose FMJ. They all shot to a different yet acceptable POI. Chuck demonstrated and we used a method of punching out the empties from the cylinder using a hammer fist method. Just like it sounds, you hammerfist the ejector rod vigorously, and it launches the empties with gusto and considerable inertia, even in guns with short ejector rods (like the Model 15). I used the Zeta-6 rubber speed loaders and was satisfied with their performance (more on those down the road). Like I mentioned earlier, I had trouble seeing the sights, due to the subdued lighting on the range. But that’s probably more of a ME problem than it was the fault of the gun. I get spoiled seeing the high visibility dots on XS, Warren or Sevigny sights with lots of light around that front, which just isn’t a feature on the older Smiths. And even without a grip adapter, my accuracy and performance didn’t suffer. It’s only six rounds…I’d rather have better concealability and more of a hook shaped grip than have really comfortable grips, even when shooting stout .38’s. It’s not a .454 where grip shape and beating up the middle finger really comes into play. But I’ve got big hands too…
If you haven’t trained with Chuck, you should! He’s one of the few trainers on the road these days who really has many pieces of the pie to offer you. He’s seen it all…and done it all. If you fancy yourself a gunman, you’d be wise to seek him out and learn from him. His website is https://agiletactical.com/ . Tell him the Doctor sent you!