Ben Stoeger's Practical Shooting Training Courses - Review
I just did four days of training with Ben Stoeger, current IPSC Production World Champion and USPSA National Production Division Champion. The first two days were the Practical Shooting Fundamentals class with 12 students and the last two were Practical Shooting Skills & Drills with 8 students. My intention in writing this review isn't to describe the courses in detail (a Google search will find good descriptions) but to provide my assessment of the quality and utility of the training.
To put my comments in context: I'm very accurate, for a 55 year-old with deteriorating eyesight, but as someone with an arthritic knee who would have to cut weight to fight in the UFC heavy weight division, I'm not fast moving. After a 14 year break from IPSC, and doing IDPA for the last few years, I'm getting back into IPSC. I have previously trained with several top USPSA shooters.
The courses were set up to make use of two bays at the range, one for a field course and the other for doing various drills that would be shot under Ben's supervision. The first day began with everyone shooting the field course with Ben as the Range Officer. From this he was able to assess the students' individual skills and weaknesses. The participants all appeared to have a few years (at least) of IPSC, though a couple were coming from an IDPA background. If you pay attention and have an open mind, you'll get something valuable out of the Fundamentals class. There aren't really any secrets to high level performance. Ben did mention that last year he fired about 20,000 rounds on just his "pairs" drill and got good results from that effort! Execute the fundamentals with speed and accuracy and you'll do very well.
With respect to technique basics like grip, he's not one of those instructors who thinks there is one right way. He uses the typical grip that many teach but knows there are top shooters who use other grips. His feedback is more along the lines of what you need to do to improve some skill (e.g. more support hand pressure, less sight focussed aiming), not the technique minutia of how to achieve that result. I can see how a shooter who is in D or C class could feel there isn't enough 'how to' instruction. If you are still struggling to hit the centre of the target in slow fire, you don't need a world champion to get you over that hump. For me the feedback was spot on for getting me to push out of my comfort zone of excellent accuracy at a not fast enough pace.
I had been concerned about how much individual attention I could get in a class of a dozen students. With people cycling through the field course bay and the drills bay simultaneously you never really had to wait much before you were shooting again. The field course was set up to let you work on the elements that were covered in the drills. ROing and watching others run the field course helped consolidate the lessons as you could think critically about how others were executing the various skills during their runs. Ben would have 2-3 shooters on the line for the drills at a time and would supervise each of them as they shot and give immediate feedback. I previously did two days of training in the USA with another top shooter in a class of just two students. I was disappointed with the lack of detailed critique - the instructor went through his set curriculum with little personalization based on our individual needs. In the first morning with Ben I already had far more personalized feedback than I had over two full days with his competitor. As someone who has delivered practical pistol training, I was really impressed with how he structured his courses to maximize student engagement and give individual feedback. The class size really isn't an issue with Ben.
When firing about 800 rounds a day your hands take a beating. I do enough dryfire and weekly live fire to have what I thought was enough callouses. However, the first three days were during a heat wave with high humidity and this contributed to slippery hands and too many flubbed draws. I did have the slide chew off a little skin each day, and by the end of the second day my longstanding callous from "Glock knuckle' was sore. Ideally, for the sake of my hands, I wouldn't have done these courses back-to-back but it's not every day they're offered an hour away from home. By the fourth morning there was a moat of blister around my callous and my middle finger was swollen enough that it hurt to bend. My draw times and accuracy suffered because of the messed up hand, but I knew this would happen so I focused on the point of the exercises and identifying what I would need to work on in the future. If you're an office worker like me, put in the training time to have really toughened up your hands before back-to-back courses.
The Practical Shooting Skills and Drills class was with just eight students and had more accomplished competitors. We had the Production national champion and several others who were top tier shooters in their divisions on this course. A main focus was on movement, whether into and out of positions or transitioning the gun across large arcs. There was some overlap with the Fundamentals class, but it was appropriate. As most shooters are nowhere near as efficient as they can be in movement, there is the potential to pick up some relatively large time improvements through what is covered in Skills and Drills. As a big guy more accustomed to lumbering than sprinting, my knees were still hurting two weeks later and my strained hamstring took over a month to recover. If you want to lose weight, do it before Skills & Drills; your knees will appreciate it. Even for me I can see how I'll be able to shoot appreciably sooner than before with what Ben taught. (FWIW, Ben's fitness tracker reported that he covered 8 miles on the last day, running along watching every student as they hauled ass!)
I already had all of Ben's books and videos (all of which are very good) so I wasn't expecting to learn about new techniques. The challenge in this game is to execute at speed what you "know". His demonstrations really drove home what world-class performance looks and sounds like in a way that just doesn't come across on video. With Ben's feedback you'll know exactly what you're doing right and wrong. For example, after you fire a few shots he can tell you if you're looking through your sights as opposed to looking over your sights. For me this kind of critique was just what I needed. Of course, I need to actually do the work training to realize the potential improvements. Even without the work, I learned enough to be a more effective coach for others.
Ben does have a reputation as a shit disturber in USPSA and if you've listened to his Practical Shooting After Dark podcast, you'll know that his language can be Presidential (circa 2016-2020), and some might find his public persona off putting. In person I found he was very professional and approachable, a no BS kind of guy who doesn't take himself too seriously, yet is very serious and methodical when it comes to the mastery of practical shooting. Yes, he may make nuns blush, but we don't see a lot of nuns at matches. He has put in the work to be at the top of this sport and now he makes his living teaching others the skills required to potentially dethrone him. It's a ballsy business model. If he's back this way next year, after I've had a chance to work on what I've learned, I'd certainly give him my business again.
This page last modified on July 17, 2018.