Monday, October 19, 2015

MAG-40 Review

In September I had the pleasure of taking the MAG-40 class with Massad Ayoob.   Massad Ayoob doesn't need much by way of introduction to those in the self-defense, law enforcement, and firearms community.  He is widely regarded as one of the very best firearms instructors in the country and with good reason.  He is also one of eleven people in the world to have earned the Five Gun Master ranking in IDPA (International Defensive Pistol Association).  His books continue to be best sellers and he is considered to be an authority of matters of the legal use of deadly force.  He is often called as an expert witness in many of the high profile court cases in the country. 

The MAG-40 class is divided between classroom time which focuses primarily on the rules of armed engagement, and the range time which teaches you the Stress Fire techniques of shooting.  There is a written exam at the end of the class and a 60 round qualification course that combines police and FBI qualification courses.  Students are required to pass the written exam and score at least a 225 out of a possible 300 on the shooting qualification. Everyone in our class did so easily. 

The class is, in a word, INTENSE.  It is also exhausting.  It is also, hands down, the best class I have ever taken.  We put in four, 10-hour days with working lunches and shot more than 500 rounds.  You will take a lot of notes.  I came away with 50 pages of typewritten notes from the class.  Mas asks his students to compare notes, fill in any gaps, print them out. sign and date them, and mail them to yourself via certified mail.  Those notes will be evidence in court of your training if you should ever end up in court for a self-defense shooting.  That in and of itself, is worth the cost of the class.  In fact, I strongly recommend that every gun owner take at least the MAG-20 class, which is the classroom portion.  What you learn there may very well save yourself in court.  If you can take the MAG-40, do so!  You will learn skills in the MAG-40 class that you won't learn anywhere else and you will learn them from the man himself.  You will not regret it. 

Mas describes himself as arrogant yet I did not find him to be so.  He was very down to earth, very personable, very approachable, and seemed to genuinely enjoy his time with his students.  He is a professional in every sense.  When he arrived for our class he had just come from appearing in court as an expert witness for a woman who had shot an outlaw biker in self-defense.  He arrived having had 3 hours of sleep and fighting bronchitis.and yet he still delivered an excellent class.  If we had not known he was working under those conditions, we would not have known. 

The thing I appreciate about Mas is that he doesn't demand you do things his way.  He simply gives you very good solid reasons for doing what he suggests that will make you want to do them.  That, by the way, is he mark of an excellent teacher.  I have trained with other well-known instructors who were very demanding and had students in tears.  You will not encounter that in one of Mas's classes. 

I'm not going to give away too much here because this is a 40 hour, in-depth course that can't be adequately detailed in a blog post ( remember I had 50 pages of typewritten notes ).  You really just need to take the course.  My purpose is to take away some of the anxiety someone may have about taking a course like this one.

In the classroom, the focus is on the judicious use of deadly force.  It goes much deeper than any other course that I am aware of.  Some of the material he covers he has never released in a book, article, or on the Internet because it would be a blueprint for the bad guys.  The Massad Ayoob group if screens each student to ensure that everyone in the class is a law-abiding person who will use the material for self-defense only. 

On the range he teaches the StressFire technique,which is based on what the body does naturally when confronted with a threat.  The core elements of Stress Fire are:

  1. A Power Stance
    1. Feet at least shoulder width apart (or wider) and dominate leg behind.
  2. A High Hand Grip
    1. Your hand as high up on the backstrap as possible
  3. A "crush" Grip
    1. Gripping the gun as tightly as possible, even to the point where you tremor.  Thumbs curled down.  This eliminates "milking" the pistol, helps with the loss of fine motor skills that occurs in a deadly force encounter,  and makes it harder for someone to disarm you.
  4. Focus on the Front Sight
    1. Focusing, not merely looking at, the front sight
  5. A Smooth Roll of the Trigger
    1. Smoothly pressing the trigger
Some of these techniques may be very different than what students learn in other classes by other elite training schools, but as I said, he gives you good solid reasons for doing it this way.  It may take practice to incorporate the StessFire techniques into your shooting as with anything new it may requires unlearning some things and relearning others.  It will likely take practice.  My advice would be to try them, and during the qualification do what you normally do that works for you, then on your own time begin to try the new techniques.  

Another take away from the class for me personally was the need to carry a back up gun.  I've always thought that was a bit over the top and maybe even bordering on paranoia.  I now see it differently.  As always, Mas explains the "why" behind it and, it just makes sense.  In a deadly force encounter, it is possible that your gun will go down.  Yes, even a GLOCK can go down.  I am a proud GLOCK owner and love them for their simplicity and reliability but I have seen them fail.  As frustrating as that is on the range or in a classroom, it would be infinitely more terrifying in a deadly force encounter. During our class, at least two guns went down, both were high quality handguns.  If it can happen on the range, it can happen in a real life scenario.  As Mas said over and over, "its not about the odds, its about the stakes".  

What are the requirements for taking this class?  You will need a solid knowledge of firearms safety.  You will need to be a CCW holder.  You will need a firearm, and its a good idea to have a second gun with you as well.   You will need 500 rounds of ammunition - take more.  You will  need a holster and at least 3 magazines - four is better in case under stress you drop a mag or have a malfunction during the qualification.

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