AAR: Street Encounter Skills with FPF Training

I have met John Murphy, the lead instructor of FPF Training, a couple of times before.  John is a firearms and self-defense trainer who also hosts many of the top names in the industry at his range in Culpepper, Virginia.  Therefore, I have met him before when training with instructors he has hosted.  I have heard really good things about John as a trainer from some reputable people, so I took a look at his own course offerings.  I attended his course called Street Encounter Skills this past weekend.

Murphy has a reputation for focusing heavily on the mindset elements of self-defense and he promotes “training in context.”  He is very accomplished in his knowledge of criminal behavior and how that should factor into realistic training.  If you follow my writing on this blog as well as the firearms sites that I also write for you will find that I have penned numerous articles on criminal behavior, mindset, de-escalation, avoidance, and all of those other elements that are exceedingly important beyond just shooting skills.  Therefore, when I began hearing things about John’s training, my interest was certainly piqued.

The weather was good and the class met up at 7:45am to proceed to John’s range, a great facility that I have been to before.  There were eleven students total, including myself, nine dudes and two ladies.  Most of the folks in this class were squared away shooters having been through numerous classes and being enthusiasts in general.  My kind of people.  There was something that I was very pleased to see in this particular class: most students brought with them their actual carry guns.  Imagine that!  Nothing irks me like when people come to a class related to concealed carry and strap on full-size pistols in ridiculous holster rigs that they obviously don’t wear in the real world.  Good showing in this class.

The Gear

Everyone was using IWB holsters and guns that made sense.  There were several Glock 19s and 26s, M&Ps, an M&P Shield, a Glock 43, and a Sig p320 compact of some kind.  Essentially, carry guns.  A nice change.  I used my Glock 26 in this class and I am glad I did.  I have been carrying and primarily training with the 26 since the beginning of the year.  It carries easy and I suspect that I have convinced myself perhaps a little too much that I am not losing a lot in performance compared to a full-size pistol.  The reduced platform of the 26 makes my draw, follow-up shot speed, and distance accuracy more challenging, but I am glad I used it in this class as another opportunity to assess this.   If you carry a smaller compact yet do your training with only a full-size pistol you may be misleading yourself regarding you capabilities with your carry gun.  You need to train with what you carry and most participants in this class did just that.

Class Format

A lot of people who take firearms training seem to be more interested in entertainment than actually learning anything.  If you burn 800 rounds in a single day’s class how much do you think you will actually learn?  I will give you a hint: such classes are usually run by instructors that don’t teach anything and they usually do very little demo of any kind.  They just keep you busy running drills.  John suggested that we bring 450 rounds to be safe, I believe. I ended up shooting 250 rounds.  That is right where it should be for a one-day class.  If you want to burn 800 rounds in a day just go to the range, it will be cheaper for you.

This class had a superb combination of classroom presentation, scenario work, and shooting.  John’s motto is “training in context” and that is what he achieves in this class.  This is not really a shooting class, though we did a good bit of shooting.  There is no work on the fundamentals of marksmanship, etc., as it is clear that this class is intended for those squared away at least to the point of being experienced and safe with working from concealment.  This class, in my opinion, is the ideal next step for those who have taken their basic CCW class as well as a dedicated shooting class beyond that, so that the fundamentals are there already.  This class puts those fundamental shooting skills “in context.”

This particular class does an excellent job of combining classroom presentation, live role-playing scenario work, and shooting.  John seeks to give the student a good understanding of criminal behavior and then seat the skills within that context.  This class not only brings students through great scenario based training and shooting work, but John also incorporates a great segment on using pepper spray.  Being a proponent for the carry of spray among those who carry guns I really liked seeing this incorporated into the class and I wish more instructors in the world of defensive shooting would lend more attention to less-lethal skills and tools.  John explains the benefits of spray for warding off assaults that are not yet shooting problems and he sits this skill nicely within the overall context.

The Classroom

The first hour or so of the morning was spent in the classroom John has on site and we were given a fantastic presentation on the nature of interpersonal violence, how fast bad things can happen, and what some of the factors are involved in criminal behavior.  At one point later in the morning we also spend some more classroom time to further observe criminal behavior and assaults through an excellent selection of camera footage John has accumulated.  John seeks to enlighten the student on the actual nature of the threat: it emerges fast and most often unpredictably.  Real incidents caught on security cameras and cell phones illustrate this better than any amount of discussion and John effectively uses this to set the context.

John is a huge proponent of avoidance in general.  He also speaks about tactics for de-escalating hostilities that arise.  He provides and insightful lecture on some of the biology that factors into human aggression.  He provides a model of his own creation that illustrates a funnel which filters down to the “event.”  The closer to the event, the less options you have.  At the top of the funnel you may start off with the options of avoidance, then de-escalation, etc.  In my opinion the classroom lecture alone makes attendance well worth it.

Managing Unknown Contacts and Less-Lethal

John does a great job of covering what we refer to in self-defense training as MUC (managing unknown contacts).  He had everyone work with partners in scenarios to practice verbal communication to keep an unknown contact at distance.  This is an essential skill and we spent some time on it.  What is also covered here, which I found to be a real bonus, is John addresses some movement patterns to look out for regarding multiple assailants designed to get close to a victim.  Good situational awareness is key to being able to see such a setup coming, but John spells out some of the characteristics to be specifically weary of.  These are the sorts of crucial elements captured in this class that most defensive firearms training is devoid of.

DSC01736
John Murphy demonstrating some criminal behavior on me

The pepper spray segment in this class is very good.  John addresses some considerations in choosing, carrying, and deploying spray.  I was quite awkward in deploying the spray from the pocket in the manner he had us try as I don’t carry my spray in that location in the real world.  I carry my spray on my keys, which I always have in my hand as I walk across parking lots or any other such location.  The down side of key chain spray units is their lack of range compared to larger dispensers like the ones we used in class.  I may reconsider and start employing a larger dispenser from the pocket as was taught in this class as I like the advantage of the increased range.

Shooting Drills

All of the shooting drills conducted in this class were, again, designed to be “in context.”  We did a number of drills to get everyone working on their presentation from concealment.  We also did work moving off-line.  Single hand shooting was also emphasized, with a good amount of drills being done weapon-hand-only from concealment.  The possible need to rely on only a single hand in a defensive encounter is very real and I liked seeing the time devoted to this.

Street Encounter Skills also threw into the mix some refreshing surprises.  We did a walk back drill in which everyone had a chance to engage several steel targets at progressively further distances.  While we still here the entirely skewed mantra of “three shots, three yards” etc, the possible need to engage at longer distances is a reality in this age of terror and active killers and John made a point to stress the ability to reach out beyond the common handgun distances.  We also did a bit of plate rack work.  Overall, a great variety of shooting.

Conclusion

I can say with absolute conviction that this is a class you should take if you are serious about being able to defend yourself.  I think this particular class wraps the skills that are perhaps the most important for the civilian concealed carrier into the most effective presentation possible in a single day.  I recommend Street Encounter Skills to everyone, beginners or those very experienced alike.  Even if you are seasoned in this craft John has obviously done a lot more research than most into criminal behavior and he builds the training around that.

In particular, I honestly think that this is the ideal class for those that have taken their initial CCW class as well as a shooting fundamentals class (no, most CCW classes don’t teach you how to efficiently handle and use a handgun).  If you are experienced in safely handling your gun from concealment then you are ready for this class and I think it is the ideal next step.  A lot of people take further firearms training but never understand the “context” in which the skills are applied in the real world.  This is a great class to acquire that understanding.

The vast majority of people who acquire a carry permit rarely shoot at all, rarely if ever carry, and only a small fraction ever pursue further training beyond what is required to obtain their permit.  I always promote adopting your defensive training as a way of life but I realize there are relatively few enthusiasts who do this.  Even if you are not an avid shooter I think you will do yourself a great service in taking this class as a next step beyond just basic shooting fundamentals.  If you take even this class beyond basic firearms training you will be far better equipped than the vast majority of concealed carriers.  As the next step beyond basic shooting and gun handling for those interested in self-defense, I have yet to see anything better than Street Encounter Skills.  This is the ideal class to take as that next step, I assure you.

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