AAR: Essential Handgun Skills with Spencer Keepers

I recently attended a one-day training class with Spencer Keepers, founder of the holster company Keepers Concealment. Spencer’s company manufactures what is considered the premier appendix holster in the industry. Within the firearms community Spencer is not only a businessman, but he is also well known for being an excellent shooter. He is particularly known as an appendix carry guy and most of his products focus on that. I carry strong-side-hip, but shooting is shooting, and a number of people that I know and respect have highly recommended Spencer’s training. Therefore, I signed up for this particular class as a good way of getting in some further professional training before the year is out. Spencer offers a dedicated appendix carry class that is actually touted as his flagship training experience. However, the Essential Handgun Skills class that I took proved a stellar training experience, so I would conclude that, if you carry appendix, you probably should look into taking his AIWB Skills class as well.

This class was hosted by FPF Training. I have taken several classes offered through FPF and the facilities and experience are always excellent. John Murphy puts out an excellent product and he does all of Virginia a great service by not only offering excellent training himself, but also by bringing in many of the best instructors in the industry. For this class I used my usual Glock 19 Gen 3 from my IWB holster. All shooting in this class was done from concealment. I believe there were fourteen students in the class. There was a good number of Glocks, a Sig, a 1911, a CZ, and a number of Berrettas. While I see less double-single action pistols these days than in times gone by, it was not surprising to see them in this class. Spencer is among a number of known shooters that are proponents of the double-single action auto. I am pleased to see that there is somewhat of a resurgence in this platform of late, and Spencer Keepers is certainly a great resource for those interested in embracing the double-single action pistol.

Spencer’s classes focus on concealed carry. I have been more than vocal in my opinion that, if you carry a concealed handgun, shooting from an open holster is a wasted opportunity. I have been in classes where open holsters were the order of the day and I would request to shoot from concealment. A great attribute of this class: working from concealment was a given. I love when an instructor embraces reality! Spencer caters to concealed carriers who want to train with their weapon of self-defense rather than weekend warriors who like to wear battle belts and roll around in the mud. Mall ninjas, you have been warned.

Speaking of mud, this class took place on a day in which Virginia was getting socked with the rain walls of a massive storm system, so it rained almost the entire day. We were soaked all day long, and it was awesome! The last time I was out at FPF Training for a class it was 98 degrees and 100 percent humidity. I think, of the two extremes, I prefer the rain. Despite the miserable weather, however, we did a lot of work on the range. We also spent a good amount of time in the classroom in the morning as Spencer went into depth on the proper fundamentals of shooting a handgun.

The morning began with classroom work in which Spencer covered the safety rules, but did so in a way that few instructors do: namely, expanding on the real-life application of each. This was followed by an extensive discussion on grip. One of the standout features of this class is Spencer’s detailed focus on grip. He explains it in a way that I have not heard before, referring to the use of an x-pattern in hand pressure. It makes perfect sense when he describes it. Also, Spencer explains the difference between a “high-tang grip” and a REAL high-tang grip. When he demonstrates this it becomes obvious that most shooters don’t place their hand as high as they truly can on the gun. This, of course, makes a substantial difference in recoil mitigation.

Spencer also covers trigger manipulation extensively. He gives one of the best overviews that I have heard concerning the proper way to manipulate a trigger, speaking to the trend among many to pin the trigger and reset after the gun has recoiled, which, of course, is a tremendous waste of time. He gave a thorough overview of the correct method of prep-and-press, proving the best method for shooting rapidly while maintaining accuracy. He also went into detail on sight picture as it applies to shooting rapidly at realistic distances.

After the morning classroom work we moved out to the range, despite the rain. As a side note, a rainy training experience is not always a bad thing. A number of malfunctions experienced throughout the day well may have been exacerbated by the conditions for a number of the shooters. I had two failures to feed and the weather may not have helped as upon cleaning the gun the next day I found a form of gunk and residue not typically found after several hundred rounds of shooting. When water enters the gun and mixes it up with all of the usual carbon and powder residue it does some interesting things. Reliability is relative and running the gun under such conditions once in a while is a good thing.

Spencer ran the class through a variety of drills, beginning the day with a focus on fine accuracy and advancing the speed as we progressed. He identified the chronic issues many shooters were having and he spent a great deal of time coaching one-on-one. In fact, his approach to coaching was particularly useful as he walks a student through their particular issue while the rest watch. While this may sound intimidating, that was hardly the case, as the atmosphere is entirely friendly and the coaching is helpful to all, not only the individual getting the hands-on attention. This training approach seems uncommon based on my experience, as often an instructor will rely on assistant instructors to provide such one-on-one help as the class progresses. In my opinion, these coaching sessions were among the most beneficial aspects of the class. Not only does this help everyone in their own performance, but for those of us that also teach a lot of new shooters, seeing an instructor with Spencer’s level of experience coaching is exceedingly helpful. For shooters who also instruct, I think this class is one of the best you can possibly take.

Despite the rain and soaking wet conditions, this is one of the best training experiences I have ever had. I also believe that more concealed carriers should take classes like this rather than focus on the ever-popular “tactical application” classes. While shooting around cars with carbines and wearing body armor is a lot of fun, I find many who go into such training do not have a solid grasp on the essentials of gun handling and marksmanship. Those classes may be entertaining, and I am not suggesting that they are not also beneficial, but I truly believe that the armed citizen who carries concealed should focus on learning to truly elevate their handgun skills. The only way to do this is to further hone the fundamentals of shooting.

Whether you are a beginner or advanced shooter, this class will offer you a lot. I cannot recommend Spencer Keepers highly enough. He is one of the best instructors I have ever met and he is friendly, exceedingly helpful, and truly experienced in his craft. If he comes within striking distance, do yourself a favor, and train with him.

To learn more about Spencer’s training, visit:


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