One of my tactical buddies had some training lined up with Matt Graham and offered me to come join in the fun. Luckily the warehouse was semi in order so I jumped all up on it. Like many others you are probably thinking "Who the hell is Matt Graham?" And thus comes in my role to help spread the good word. Getting his start in law enforcement Matt has been in quite a few tactical departments in which his latest I can't even disclose. This variety in tactical work has created an impressive foundation for his current career emphasis as an instructor. Ranging from average folk to high speed active military, Matt has dropped some knowledge for them all.
Of course he likes to be a bit modest and doesn't mention much of this on his site, just a couple recommendation letters from pleased units. Mister Graham has also proven to be a crafty dude in which he invented those cool guy combat flashlight rings currently available through Surefire. I thought they were just nice grip enhancers but then he demonstrated their original design intent which was to turn a flashlight into a shooting light rather than a searching light. In addition he has also made a slick 3D target system which promotes a vast array of details paper targets lack such as: depth, target id, threat id, and interactivity just to name some.
The classes I attended took place in the Oak Harbor area of Washington which apparently is close to the Air Force base as EA-6B Prowlers were frequently tearing up the sky. For facilities the local gun club worked out quite well despite not being tactical specific thanks to the high berms. Our students comprised of a pretty good mix including civilians, Firemen, and SWAT Medics. Matt's unique class format became apparent when getting started for each class. Rather than having a strict class plan and layout, it starts with a mere general subject and a set number of days. In this case, a 2 day rifle and a 3 day pistol class. At the start of each class the students are then asked straight up what they want to learn. This intel then directly effects what is covered. In an amusing Lo-Fi manner Matt would then plan out the class on index cards right then and there. The adaptation didn't end there as further adjustments would be made based on how the class flowed. Since the attended classes included civilians we started off fairly basic with safety briefings, maintenance, and shooting fundamentals. Gotta start somewhere, however this leads into another great Graham Combat class trait, cramming in as much useful training that the day count allows. Rather than dividing up classes into levels such as pistol 1 and pistol 2, Matt specifically detests that format resulting in one of the few places you can go from trigger reset drills on day 1 to teamwork shooting from vehicle extraction drills on day 3. He will pack in as much content as time allows. Some may think this is asking for trouble, however a careful balance of reasonable risk is always managed. Examples of these precautions include drill order, target locations, speed, and starting in the ready position rather than the holster.
Throughout the classes combat mindset is stressed and generally the "train how you fight" concept. Rather than being treated like a bunch of potential accidental dischargers we break many classic rules such as shooting with others further down range or turning back towards the line with a weapon, all of these of course done in a tactically reasonable manner. This helps remind students to not be stuck in the range rules mindset when the time to deploy a weapon for real comes. It is good to be aware of your intended target and what is behind or near it, however hesitation of firing on a threat in a real gun fight due to being worried about range rules can be some serious bad news.
To get the importance of some techniques across Matt becomes quite the skillful story teller. Many from his own experience, they help drive realism to the points. Although generally a totally hilarious guy, when appropriate Matt has no hesitation turning on the serious switch when needed. This makes for a more enjoyable training process in my opinion without compromise to keeping things in order. As a low man on the tactical totem pole, I find the Graham Combat classes to excel in bang for buck. The variety and complexity of subjects covered in the amount of time allows for a total shooting noob to reach competency in a very short amount of time. Thus you may learn in 1 class what may have taken 3 classes to learn at some other schools. The offerings don't end there, as it is possible to get a class together for a salty hard crew for some specific advanced training as well. Since classes vary so much the content list isn't as important, but here is a list of some points covered in the classes I took for those curious.
-Basics such as trigger reset, grip, drawing pistol from concealment / holster
-Finding a balance of shooting speed and accuracy
-Close contact shooting
-Escape from illegal restraints
-Know the difference between cover and concealment
-Basic Room clearing
-Shooting on the move
-Deploy pistol from vehicle / teamwork
-Breaking weapon down for basic cleaning maintenance
-Zeroing the weapon with sighting system
-Shooting short and long range considerations
-Target ID and communication
-Shooting on the move
-Untraditional shooting positions
-Exiting a vehicle into rifle combat / teamwork
For a personal desire would have liked to have more random threat or weapon manipulation calls as they help train my core instincts. The few that were done showed I still had room for improvement such as one time I was slow to flip the safety on my rifle despite I did it flawlessly on all other normal drill calls. If you haven't noticed yet I found these Graham Combat classes totally worth my time and highly recommend the school to others. I think Matt's unique teaching format really sets himself apart from the others while offering no messing around training practical in the real world.
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