Anthony W- Phenix City, AL: May 2-3, 2015
The Camera Don’t Lie:
John McPhee Video Diagnostics
I carry a gun for a living, and I have for the last 16 years. Nothing sexy at all, but the American public believes that I can make an accurate shot with the weapon that I am armed with at any given moment, especially under extreme stress. The constant problem with a profession at arms is, can I?
Before I get into the review though, the readers need to understand the most important part of my reason for training. The answer is simply that I am training to shoot another human being, under the correct legal requirements, as quickly and efficiently as I possibly can, to preserve uninvolved human life or mine. It does not matter who made the firearm that I am using or what caliber they made it in.
I met John “Shrek” McPhee a few years ago through a mutual friend, and hearing him describe his philosophy on shooting and performance under stress made me hungry for more information from him. In short, only perfect practice makes perfect, and the way to practice perfectly requires investing the time up front to obsess over the details.
Video, under the watchful Coach’s Eye app, makes this not only possible but repeatable. I heard one of John’s former unit leaders discussing the leveraging of technology in unique ways to further the betterment of personnel, and while the discussion with DiTo involved F3EAD, his point remains applicable across the armed profession’s spectrum. When John began his concept of using the video analysis app to train shooters, I surmised that the streamlined thinking and execution is a trait in all of the successful Tier 1 professionals.
I recently attended a one day pistol and one day rifle video diagnostics course in Phenix City, Alabama. The results have significantly altered the way that I have approached my individual training. While I do occasionally enjoy shooting a lot of rounds, the return on my investment if I perform poorly results in a net loss. Again, perfect practice makes perfect. Imperfect practice causes ingrained and imperfect habits.
The Pistol course: The students assembled at the range at 0900 hours and prepped for the day. I looked around and saw that everyone else was working on their concealed carry. I was the only guy with a duty
holster. The rest of the students seemed like a great bunch of guys so I was anxious to see their tips/tricks from the concealed carry end. John went over the safety protocols and went directly into the purpose of the training; to teach the subconscious mind what is correct and desirable and to leverage technology so that the brain is able to see what it is actually telling your body to do. Often times, your brain is wrong. Ever watched a video of yourself and felt like it looked a lot better in your head?
We started with a simple individual drill where John videoed us one at a time as we drew and fired two rounds. He then took the time with each of us to discuss grip, stance, and presentation. Though there is down time for each student in a curriculum like that, the moments when you are specifically analyzed make it all worth it. The down time provides more than enough opportunity to dry work your skills.
I saw some sacred cows get slaughtered right before my eyes. The grip became one of the most important lessons. Simply put, hang onto as much of the gun as you can as hard as you can and you can get away with a sloppy trigger. John even proved it when he used a common household wrench to slam the trigger while a student gripped the gun properly. All of the rounds were killing shots. John’s case in point; your trigger finger cannot place more pressure on that trigger than the wrench did, especially in the .01 of a second that it takes the trigger to break. The solution is don’t overthink it. Grip the gun, align the sights, and jerk the trigger. If you can do that correctly, consistently, and without flinching, then you will make aggressive yet accurate shots. I have to admit that it worked for me. Instead of focusing on the trigger press, I focused on my grip and quick sight acquisition for pistol distance shots. I was a good bit more careful with my trigger finger at the 50 and 75 yard lines though.
Another valuable lesson that John took the time to break down and explain to me, based on his observations on the video, was the time it took to break the shot upon presentation. I have worked on this over the years and have become fairly quick, but the video did not lie. I was inefficient when it came to lining up the sights and that was causing me nearly .25 of a second. John said “drop the front sight into the rear sight notch as you finish the presentation so that you get a little more time to adjust as you reach full presentation.” I explained that I was, or at least my brain told me that I was, so John looked at the video and discovered the issue. I was focusing on the rear sight as I presented the gun and was finding the front sight as I raised it into the rear notch. By switching the order and finding the front sight during presentation, I could then correctly “drop” it into the rear sight notch more quickly because I already had it in my view and was tracking the front sight towards the target.
Now, at this point some of the readers are probably thinking “dude bro man, that’s the way it is supposed to go. I have been doing that all along.” For me, I have been doing it backwards but still managed to be faster than most. I had plateaued in my ability to draw, present, line up the sights, and break the shots. John’s correction, made possible by his watchful eye and video technology, caught the problem, correctly diagnosed it, and gave me the correct course of action to fix it. How many thousands of repetitions do I have under my belt the inefficient way?
Day two of the course was the video diagnostics of carbine shooting. We picked up two new students and lost a couple of others, so the class dynamics changed a little bit with no issues. John followed the same model as the day prior and we got right down to business. Because of the smaller class size, John was able to film and critique our stance, grip, presentation, and a reload. I learned that as a tall and thin guy, my weight needs to be forward and my chin two inches or so over my toes. Again, my brain told me that I was already doing this even though John was correcting it. The video showed me exactly what I was doing, which wasn’t what I thought it was. Basically, I was leaning forward at the waist and causing my strong side leg to lock out, making it an anchor when it was time to move. If your job entails that people may be shooting back at you, your mobility is everything. Who wants to move with an anchor leg? John also corrected my “c-clamp” grip that I adopted when I placed my pressure pad for the light/laser on the 12 o’clock rail. I did that to mimic a very experienced friend because his logic was sound in placing the pad there for ambidextrous shooting. I didn’t think it through far enough though as the guy that I copied has a completely different body style. In short, I could get away with my support grip until I couldn’t. I was using my shoulder to support the gun, which I already knew was quickly tiring considering the number of times that I braced on a doorjamb, etc. while working or training. I just thought that having a tired, sore shoulder was part of it.
Adopting my new style made me faster, especially over the course of the day. Since I was using my body style to my advantage, as long as I did everything correctly, I could shoot as fast as I wanted to as long as I wanted to. The gun didn’t have a lot of say in the matter. Yes, it was uncomfortable at first but comfort is a byproduct of habit and is thus a learned behavior. Many things that make us better are uncomfortable at first.
We shot individual shots and multiple shots to reinforce our good habits. We moved into multiple target engagements and ran the “look-shoot-look-shoot” drill for a time. Simply put, if you do it right you can be fast and accurate. If you do it wrong, you will drive past the target nearly every time. Lastly, we shot targets on the move. This is usually where it fall apart for most people but for me, it was an excellent opportunity to hone the skills, accept the wobble, and break the shots while continuing forward.
One of the most valuable take-aways that I gleaned from a conversation with John had nothing to do with guns. It is the power of positivity. If you carry a gun for living for the government, whether in the United States or overseas, you are exposed to much of the negativity that humanity has to offer. That destructive emotion has the power to influence your personal and professional life and find its way into everything that you do, including shooting. The solution? Stop doing it. It costs us nothing to be nice. Being an a$$hole can cost you everything. As a firearm’s instructor for my agency, I instantly realized the depth of that statement and will not forget it.
If you have not signed up for one of John’s classes yet, DO IT! This includes his Gunfighter University sessions that you can attend. Simply video yourself shooting with a camera phone, etc. and send in the video. John sends you back a critiqued video that you can reference at your next firearms session. The camera don’t lie.