This weekend I had the opportunity to host Ben Stoeger for one of his two day classes focused on improving USPSA skills. As luck would have it, we had about the best group of people I could have asked for to spend the weekend with, training, shooting, and socializing over lunches and dinners.
Prior to this class I only knew Ben by reputation which varies depending on who you ask. Personally, I found him to be quite a character, but not malicious or deserving of some of the online rants out there. He has a no BS approach and tells it like it is which is something I can really appreciate, especially in a training context where I’m trying to get the most improvement in the short amount of time we had to available. When Ben tells you how effed up you reload, it’s earned, and now I know where to focus.
We started each “leg” of training with a stage that he sets up, gives no input whatsoever, and has us run to see how we solve the problems before us. Then he goes over each piece of the stage and demonstrates how to break down the stage into little sections and how to efficiently take on each piece. This routine was worth the price of admission alone! Next we would all run it again applying his feedback and watch our times plummet.
After the demo stage we would start working on a specific drill related to the point(s) of the stage, further refining what he had taught us. We would setup and practice a few “micro” drills and then tie them all together with another stage, again, left up to us to figure out the first run, then he’d break it down piece by piece and we’d run it again. Rinse and repeat.
I must admit that I was a little concerned with the size of the class, 12 of us, and how much personal attention we’d all get, but Ben was almost savant like in seeing what each student was doing poorly and made suggestions on improvements along the way which was pertinent to every little flaw each of us had all the back to the first stage. Very impressive. In fact he identified some real problem areas in my shooting repertoire that I’m sure have been holding me back to a great extent. Apparently I have some very poor trigger manipulation skills that I didn’t realize I had. They were quite obvious once he pointed them out, but honestly didn’t have any idea that was an issue for me. And to say he didn’t like my reloads would be an understatement. There were certainly some other things along the way he identified as well. I have to start moving from position to position much faster than I do. I think it was pretty cool that he gave everyone a copy of his dry fire book and pulled my aside to give me a copy of his new Skill and Drills book in an effort to help me fix some of my nagging shooting deficiencies.
I have some final thoughts about the class now that I’ve had a few days to digest all of the data. The first thing people want to know when it comes to taking a class is whether or not it was worth it. Was it a good value considering the cost of the class, the cost of the ammo, and an entire weekend of your time? Absolutely. But I will say that this seemed like a class that you would want to take after you’d achieved a certain level of proficiency. What do I mean by that? Well it seems like most A class shooters can shoot as fast as any GM, but it’s all of the efficiencies along the way that separate the good from the great, the A’s from the GM’s. Ben is the guy who can quickly identify your weak areas and tell you how to fix them and get you shooting at the next level. Case in point, our “star” of the class was Gabe White who was laying down some almost impossible times and was being pushed well into his failure points. I’m sure he got more out of the class than your lowly B shooters such as myself.