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AAR – SXRV Instructor, 05/6-7/2023

We just wrapped up the first Tactical Anatomy Shooting With Xray Vision Instructor Class this past weekend. It was an intense experience for all of us. This material never fails to shake up everyone’s expectations and prior assumptions, including me.

There comes a time in every class when the utter finality of self-defense shooting hits home. The room becomes very quiet, and every student has the same look on his/her face: I don’t know how to describe it, but it’s crystal clear as I look out into the room that the reality of what we are talking about hits home. Every person in the room steps across a threshold of understanding. This class isn’t about punching holes in a cardboard target and taking a smiling selfie with it. Shooting With Xray Vision is about hitting the STOP button. Incapacitation is highly congruent with mortality. And there’s a lot to unpack when you think about that.

This weekend, the moment was on TD1, just before the lunch break. Afterwards, as we all settled down to chow and fraternization, a few student instructors approached me and told me that the class had really hit them hard at that moment.

I can sympathize. I had my own “Aha!” experience at Massad Ayoob’s LFI-I class in Winnimac, IN, in 1998. It’s all well and good to talk about the use of deadly force in the abstract, in intellectual terms, but at some point we all have to come to terms with the visceral. emotional and for some the spiritual reality of what it means. It shakes you up. It makes you question yourself.

Fortunately, the people who were at SXRV Instructor this past weekend were well prepared for the “Aha!” moment, and were able to accept it and move on. I couldn’t be more proud of my student instructors than I was at the point in the class. Moving forward, we were all on the same page.

As I told the class at the outset the topics we cover in the “basic” Shooting With Xray Vision Instructor class are the same as the topics in the “basic” Operator class… but we were going to cover them in a different order, and with different emphasis. This was an instructor class, meaning we intended to show the class how to teach this material.

That’s a critical distinction. As several students told me over the weekend, most “instructor” classes simply present the material to be taught and expect you to be able to teach it. In SXRV Instructor, the whole point of the class is to teach you how to teach the material,

As the class unfolded, the student instructors realized why this class is so important to defensive-minded citizens in our day and age. There is a whole lot of how to shoot training out there, but not a whole lot of why and where to shoot training. And SXRV is all about why and where to shoot bad guys.

We started the day by exploring the realities of officer-involved shootings (OIS)–which reflects the realities of armed citizen defensive shootings (DUGs)–and how SXRV has turned outcomes for OIS/DUG on their heads. And then we spent a good bit of time exploring the “secrets” of Adult Learning theory, and unlocking some mysteries.

We then got into the meat-and-potatoes of SXRV, exploring the subject material on human anatomy and physiology, then short course on terminal ballistics and terminal effects. Following that, we went out to the range and Chuck Haggard did a superb 90-minute educational experience demonstrating how bullets work when they strike ballistic gel (which simulates human muscle tissue). We saw how hollowpoint bullets expand, how they penetrate, and how our bullets sometimes don’t do what they are supposed to, and Chuck explained why this happens. The class was suitably impressed: Chuck did a superb job, as he always does.

We then went back to the classroom to discuss Gunfight Realities. This is a discussion based on my experience as a trauma physician, but also on getting feedback from cops who have taken my class over the past 20+ years. It’s one thing to read about an OIS in a magazine article, and it’s even better to read the reports and analyses of them… but to hear about an officer’s experience directly from him or her, face to face, is another thing altogether.

In the Gunfight Realities portion of SXRV, I share the lessons I’ve learned from all those cops (and the expert analysis of their gunfights). This is not “top secret” material, but it’s not material that most citizens will have access to. In SXRV, I have consolidated that material into a digestible lump that can make sense to the average defensive-minded citizen. The student-instructors were impressed. Moreover, one of the attendees, Greg Ellifritz, has collected a huge compendium of street shootings and analysis, and he was able to contribute a good deal to this discussion because of that knowledge. (Spoiler alert: with Greg’s permission, his shootings data will be included in my soon-to-be-completed book, an updated and expanded Tactical Anatomy Instructor Manual.)

Next topic was all about learning the 3-dimensional relationships of the first 2 Zones of Incapacitatation: the high chest or mediastinum, and the lateral pelvis. This was demonstrated to the class, then we moved on to the core lesson of SXRV Instructor, the how-to-teach-3D-anatomy lesson. This involves tight white t-shirts, marking pens, working with a partner, and whole lot of fun. Listen, figuring out the anatomy in your head is one thing: being able to draw it on another person’s torso is “a whole nother thing” altogother. But it’s essential to the process of learning to be an SXRV Instructor, and I’m pleased to say that the class did very well as a whole.

I traditionally snap a class photo at the end of the t-shirt exercise at every SXRV Instructor class, and we did so at the end of TD1, to the accompaniment of much ribbing and laughter. I love the smiles in this photo. What a great bunch of people! By the way, when we snapped this photo we had spent almost 12 hours in class and on the range. TD1 is intense, as several attendees have told me in emails this past week!

As the sun dipped below the tops of the Oklahoma hills Billy Armstrong, owner and operator of Mead Hall Range, cooked us up a fantastic meal of burgers and brats, and we all enjoyed a fulfilling meal with lots to talk about. Then we went back to hotels and campers and whatnot to sleep and in doing so to consolidate the learning. (There is so much more important stuff to learn about learning and sleep, as we touched on in this class… more to follow in upcoming blogs.)

TD2 dawned clean and bright, and despite the fact that we had had a 12-hour day on TD1, everyone was ready for more. We got into the class by examining the Ethics of Use of Deadly Force with some real life examples. We then moved on to analysis of the terminal ballistics and effects in a couple of real world shootings, demonstrating how these principles play out when actual bullets hit actual flesh.

Then we moved on to the third Zone of Incapacitation, the Brainstem. I was pleased to note that many of the class attendees were up to speed on this zone already. We covered that material, then we went out onto the range to shoot some bad guys.

But first we had another ballistic gel lesson with Chuck Haggard. This time we shot the gel with some shotgun loads, to demonstrate to everyone how a 12-gauge loaded appropriately with buckshot or slugs impacts tissue. We tested several loads, including 00 and #4 buckshot, as well as a 1-oz. rifled slug. Then it was time for the class to do some shooting.

The SXRV Bad Guy Brigade was out in force: 10 tactical dummies from Law Enforcement Targets were set up with nylon stockings on their heads, and we did some more anatomic modeling with our tactical Sharpies. Then the class shot some holes in the bad guys with their personal carry pistols from various angles of presentation, followed by more analysis of shot placement, target organ presentation, and terminal effects.

We rounded out the range session with some rifle work, shooting both high chest and brainstem zones from 25 yards. I am pleased to report that the class did extremely well in this exercise, as they did with ALL the dummy shooting exercise. All in all, this was one of the most capable groups of shooters I have had in a SXRV class over the past 20 years.

We broke for lunch, then spent some time in review of the course. Many questions and comments were forthcoming, which I believe enhanced everyone’s learning. This was a highly interactive class, as I had anticipated. Then we moved on to the computer simulator.

Computer simulators can lend an element of learning you simply can’t achieve with any other modality, I have learned. Even force-on-force training with SIMUNITION can’t do everything, and when it’s available at a training site I always teach one segment of class with the simulator. Since this was an instructor class, we had the student instructors do the breakdown of shot placement. At this point of the course, they were all more than ready to do so. The result was an excellent learning experience.

At the end of TD2 we shot a second class photo, this time in street clothes. The pics are up on Facebook, if you care to view them. I have looked at both class photos this morning, and I must confess I have bit of a grin on my face. Great times with great people.

So it appears we have unloosed at whole new crop of instructors on the shooting world, and they will be able to teach this material in their home states to their home crowds. I could not be more pleased. If any reader has an interest in taking one of their classes, I encourage him/her to do so.

In the event the reader wants to get training at the source, we are planning a SXRV Operator class for this fall at Mead Hall Range, and we may do another SXRV Instructor next spring if there is sufficient demand. Watch this blog for more info as plans come to fruition.