Whether you want to train in defensive tactics or just shoot better and faster, there is a school and a class out there for you. One of the better classes I've taken recently is InSights Training Center's Intensive Handgun Skills at West Coast Armory in Bellevue, WA. This is a three-day, 1,400-plus-round class that will definitely have you shooting better when you leave.
I headed into the class as an IDPA Master-Class shooter in the Enhanced Service Revolver division, and my goal for the class was to help tune up my shooting to reach my goal of IDPA 5-gun master. The instructor for the class was John Holschen, whose professional bio could just read, "When Chuck Norris is scared; he calls John Holschen for help." Holschen is a great instructor. With more than 20 years in Army Special Forces and Intelligence, his experience extends not just to firearms, but also to hand-to-hand and defensive-knife combat as well. The most important facet of a good instructor, though, is the ability to teach across different skill levels. The Intensive Handgun Skills class is an intermediate/advanced class, but there were a couple of shooters who were definitely not quite at that level. He was able to coach and help develop these shooters so that by the end of the class, they had seen substantial improvement in their skills despite coming from a less-advanced shooting background.
Day 1 of the class focuses on the fundamentals of marksmanship, with drills that bring the shooter into closer relationships with their sights and trigger control. I was shooting the class with Ruger's new SR40, and in the first day I fired more than 500 rounds of .40 S&W ammo through various drills. The main principle of day 1 is sight tracking—watching your front sight lift and fall through recoil and being able to reset the trigger during recoil to achieve a faster follow-up shot. By doing this, most shooters should be able to shave split times down by the fraction of a second that could be the difference between winning and losing a match, or surviving a defensive encounter.
InSights Standards were introduced on the second day. This is a set of drills used to create performance benchmarks for a shooter. These were fired at the start of day 2, and again on day 3 to judge improvement over the course of the class. They aren't complex drills, but rather simple tests of fundamental skills: drawing from the holster, transitions, multiple shots on a single target, etc. The class then focused on building those skills so the shooters would be able to show improvement from day 1 to day 3. For example, the simple drill 1-on-2: fire one shot at target one, transition and fire one shot at target two. On day 2, my best time was 0.62 seconds; by day 3 I shaved that down to 0.41 seconds. Over the course of a match, a 0.2 second transition can add up to 3 or 4 seconds of time saved.
While there are some people who don't see the value of professional training, the bottom line is if you want to be a better shooter, taking a class is the fastest way to become one. If you're a golfer and wanted to improve your game, you'd take lessons, right? That same rule applies to shooting—you can't know what you're doing wrong unless someone who knows better tells you. At InSights Training Center, the instructors all have the experience to help improve your shooting, whether it's for competition or for self-defense. If you're a Master Class shooter looking for a tune-up, a Sharpshooter wanting to make the bump to Expert and Master or just looking to gain more confidence in your defensive-shooting ability, check out InSights Intensive Handgun Skills.