My first class of 2023 was held for a student I had to cancel twice in 2022, once for weather then the range closure. I contacted the student and advised them of the range conditions and they had no issues with mud and standing water, the class was a go.
The student arrived with a great attitude and was ready to learn. The student owned a pistol and had shot the pistol multiple times but felt like they needed some additional instruction. We started the class inside due to lower temperatures in the morning. I ask each student what they are looking to achieve with the class and modify the class to their needs. This student was looking to improve their technique and confidence with her pistol. The pistol they had chosen was a Smith & Wesson M&P compact. They had chosen this pistol due to the low recoil and previous attempts to rack a centerfire pistol had been inconsistent. The student was looking to carry off the body, concealed, and home defense, so we started with a discussion on the capabilities of the chosen pistol and the limits that pistol had when it came to holster and accessory selection. We discussed the limitations of the .22 long rifle for self-defense and the benefits. We worked on proper sight alignment, target hold, and techniques for racking a centerfire pistol before lunch. After a demonstration of alternate ways to rack the pistol, the student was racking both an M&P Full Size 9 and a Glock 17 consistently. Often overlooked in new shooters is eye dominance, especially in adults. Most adults have shot their entire life without determining their eye dominance and accuracy suffers, sometimes to great disappointment as they just cannot get their groups where they want. We determined the student was cross dominant and worked on some techniques to assist them.
I have used the 5.11 practice barrels and the weighted practice mags for several years in both my M&P Full size and Gen 3 Glock 22. This was the first class I had attempted to use the Glock practice barrel in a Gen 5 17. The weighted practice mag worked perfectly, the barrel did not. The slide would not go into the battery, and I discovered later that the takedown lever would not function without some persuasion. One benefit of this was that the trigger could be repeatably pulled without racking the slide. To get the pistol apart before the live fire portion I had to press the slide forward, pull the trigger, and maintain pressure on the slide while pulling the take-down levels down. A third hand would have been helpful.
The M&P 5.11 practice barrel locked the gun up. The slide would not retract, and the takedown lever was stuck at a 45-degree angle. The barrel bent slightly in the middle causing the barrel to set high on the breech and create drag on the recoil spring. I was only able to remove the barrel after pressing the barrel lower on the breech face, forcing the slide to the rear and forcing the takedown lever to 90 degrees. Both pistols were reassembled with the factory barrels without issue and functioned normally.
After lunch, we went to the range for live fire. I offer my students an opportunity to start with their pistol or use one of mine. I have offered in the past the original M&P .22 and the matching M&P 9 Gen 1. This year I have added a Gen 5 17 and G44 to my available options. The student chose to start with their pistol. We started with a one-shot drill to establish their point of aim and observe technique. We fine-tuned the technique and worked on getting their group in the center of the target. Their group was not moving after drills, so I verified which eye they were using. Groups moved in the right direction once the dominant eye was used.
I noticed the student was having issues with consistent trigger pulls and I was wondering if the pistol was the cause. I had the student try the Glock 44 and her shooting improved. The student immediately recognized the difference in the triggers and enjoyed the more consistent trigger pull of the Glock 44. To note, the M&P Compact has a lower quality, inconsistent trigger when compared to the original M&P 22. I then had the student try the trigger of both the centerfire M&P and Glock, consistency improved along with the sight picture. I am not a fan of the Gen 5 trigger design of the Gen 5 17 or the G44. The drop safety on both the G44 and Gen 5 17 seems to be much higher than the Gen 4 & 5 pistols I own. The trigger is not comfortable for long strings of fire and causes finger fatigue. The student enjoyed the trigger pull but also noted the uncomfortable trigger after only 10 rounds. The student had zero issues charging the pistols utilizing the new techniques, this greatly increased their confidence. The student picked up on the quality of the different triggers quickly and started self-assessing their trigger pull and sight alignment.
We finished the day out with more .22, discussed what we had gone over during the day, and closed out the class. I try and give my students information that assists them in making the right equipment choices but avoid saying there is only one way. I have been lucky over the years to meet some great people in the industry, and I have had the opportunity to go hands-on with excellent equipment. Internet reviews, posts, and advertisements can limit your ability to give real-world results on equipment. Students deserve honest information that helps them cut through the large overwhelming amount of info available today. The student stated that they are looking forward to expanding their training and now feel they have more options to pick from when choosing a pistol. This is why we teach these classes.