Victory First – we don't say "Expert" lightly

Today we bring you a few words from Mad Duo Nate about a class on gunfighting – gunfighting strictly from positions of concealment, courtesy of Victory First. Perhaps this will help you undersand why we believe Matt to be one of the finest, most approachable (and hirsute) instructors in the country. Grunts: hirsuteMad Duo

Victory First

Over the last few years I have felt as though I have hit a plateau in shooting, particularly shooting handguns. There were years of constant, noticeable progress and then one day it just seemed as though I could no longer improve. I couldn’t gain any more speed, I was unable to improve accuracy. I just held steady at the point I had reached, and every range session turned into sustaining already achieved skills.

That’s not to say that I’m a terribly impressive shot, I’m not. Nor do I mean to say I can draw and fire from concealment in the blink of an eye, I cannot. I would suppose that I am better than some, and worse than others out there. Shooting isn’t about comparing yourself to other people, its an individual skill that is bettered thru individual training. A shooter has to have a set of defined goals to push themselves to, for actual progress to occur. Those goals are also defined by the same person trying to accomplish them.  Personally, the handgun has been the thorn in my side ever since I began to shoot them at age 17. It has been the hardest weapon to master, and unlike every single other weapon system out there, it’s the only platform I am not 100% comfortable with to this day.

There are two people that have been most influential in my progress on the handgun. One was a crusty old Army Ranger called Bernie, who pushed my handgun skills forward exponentially as a much younger man. Ther other came recently in the form of a crusty southern gentleman named Matt Jacques.

Victory First is a Virginia based training company run by Jacques. That name might sound familiar to many of our readers, and rightfully so. Mr. Jacques has a very accomplished career in the firearms and training industry. He has spent his entire adult life behind the gun in a diverse array of capacities. First as a US Marine, later as law enforcement officer then into a development and design position with FNH USA (Senior Manager for Weapons Integration and Training Operations with FNH USA, where he was involved in every aspect of the SCAR program as well as all development and training aspects of the M249, M240 and the FN SPR sniper rifle systems). Later he became a firearms trainer for the Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (working as the Operations Chief of that training unit). His background in firearms development, deployment and instruction is so diverse and impressive it could easily be an article on its own. The focus of this article is not to stroke the man’s ego or promote any of that unfortunate hero worship that seems to be so rampant in the firearms/comunit community these days. It’s to inform you how Victory First has made me a better shooter, through their unique insights and methodology.

There is no shortage of firearm instructors on the market today, with classes ranging from bush league bullshit to over-your- head advanced skills. The water has become muddy, and as a result it’s tricky to figure out where, and with whom to spend your money.

It often seems as though people just rehash other instructors drills, techniques or curriculum. It’s frustrating in the least, and a blatant waste of resources at its worst.  This past fall I attended the “Fundamentals of everyday Carry” (Defensive Handgun) taught by Victory First at the Tango Down range in West Virginia.Hosted by the folks at F3 Tactical, in Chantilly Va.

 

This was my second time on the range with Matt Jacques and his cadre (in this case, Michael Dale, a very good instructor himself). The two day course started out a little chilly, and almost all students partook in the box of coffee F3 Tactical thoughtfully brought out. Matt started the day with safety and medical briefs, which is something I expect out of any professional. We briefly reviewed different modes of carry, choice in gear and load out, and buddy checked our personal setups. Aside from that first hour, we spent the entire course on the firing line.

One of the things I really like about Victory First is the way every aspect of training is broken down and explained. You will never be asked to do something that the instructor did not just successfully demonstrate a minute before. Everything will be explained – the how and why it is applicable to building your situational awareness, employing your weapon defensively, or making the right judgment call. Every. Single. Drill. is started from concealment, and I think I drew my pistol more times in the first hour then I had the entire month prior. This isn’t the sort of course to attend if you want to sport a “battle belt” and plate carrier, showing off all your cool guy gear and impressive credit card debt. The whole premise is built around daily carry of your personal or duty weapon.

Considering how many responsible citizens carry concealed, and how many cops carry this way off duty, it’s absolutely great to be able to attend a course central to fighting from concealment. All of the other students were proficient with their handguns (most impressively so) and the course progressed quickly from slow fundamental drills to applying those with consistency and speed. Moving on from single target to multiple target engagement, we switched from paper to Tacstrike Steel silhouettes. This aspect of shooting paper for emphasis on accuracy, and steel for speed was very enlightening. I found myself slowing down and concentrating more when shooting paper, but then allowing my shot groups to grow slightly sloppy on steel. This was immediately noticed by Matt and corrected instantly on the spot.

Shooting is as much psychological as it is based on skill. Why was I allowing myself to spread my shot groups on one medium, but not the other? His constant guidance and observation identified several of my own training scars as well as those of other students.

Often, particularly if a pattern was collectively forming in our group, he would pause live fire to explain via mini lecture. His humility and confidence go hand in hand, and I absolutely love the way he breaks things down in a mix of colorful analogies and humor.

There is nothing like being told that you are fucking something completely up, while not suffering the negative impact of self criticism that usually goes along with it. That specific individual character trait Matt posses

ses makes the correction or negative observation easier to digest, as though it is coming from a mentor or big brother and not a stranger you just met.

His method of instruction, his examples provided, and challenging tempo are some of the most uniquely gratifying aspects of Victory First training. I found myself realizing that by setting yourself up for success on the range, this is often setting yourself up for failure in the real world. If you don’t practice drawing from realistic cover garments, and the complications they can create; that’s exactly what you are doing.

Reinforcing a proper search and assess after each drill, and being reluctant to quickly reholster is yet another aspect I enjoyed. Bad guys are like cockroaches, if there is one there is often more, why be in a rush to get your pistol back in its holster?  Victory First classes induce a little spike of stress as the day progresses. One of such stress drills is to shoot “The Standard”. This drill is a series of challenging strings shot for time and accuracy. Having shot various qualification courses over the years, this “standard” is by far the most realistic and challenging I’ve ever shot. It’s not designed for the lowest common denominator; it’s designed to give you an accurate assessment of your own skill set. This drill alone is one of the best parts of the course, and worth attendance just to learn and use on your own.

Overall, Fighting from Concealment is the absolute best CCW geared course I have ever attended. It fully encompasses ALL aspects of realistic pistol employment, and has paid dividends in how I shoot pistol since attending. I have built the drills and concepts from the course into my personal sustainment training, and I no longer feel like I am on a plateau, but increasing my skills again.

I don’t throw the term “expert” out lightly; it is in fact a word I generally hate. But Matt Jacques is the best subject matter expert on CCW I have ever trained with. Check out Victory First and their course schedule, you will be glad that you did.

Mad Duo, Breach-Bang & CLEAR!

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