Training with MDFI (Michigan Defensive Firearms Institute)

May 14, 2013
Dan Griffin

“How was your evening?” one of the instructors asked on the second day. “Good,” I replied with a smile. “I just went home and relaxed. I didn’t realize a full day of shooting drills was going to be so exhausting.”

He returned my smile. “Yeah.”

A little more than eight hours later I had completed two full days of intensive handgun training: malfunction drills, fighting from cover, fighting from the ground, multiple target threats, advancing fire, retreating fire, running drills, single hand operation (strong hand and weak hand, including reloads and clearing malfunctions with one hand), walk-back drills, and more.

I took MDFI’s Handgun 1 and 2 back-to-back the first weekend in May. There are both advantages and disadvantages to taking them together, but because I travel for work a lot, and MDFI’s full year’s training schedule hadn’t been published yet, I opted to take them when I knew I could get them in. I wanted to run multiple guns over the two days for a couple of reasons, and so I checked with the instructors beforehand. They said there was no problem,that others have run multiple guns, and so I brought the three pistols I have carried or currently carry. On the first day I ran all three. One of them was a 1911-style handgun, a single stack Para LDA, but I only used that for one instruction period as I could not keep that sufficiently fed! On the second day I ran with just one of those handguns all day, the first handgun I ever purchased, a S&W .40 SW40F, while carrying three spare 15 round magazines.

I’ve been shooting pistols for a number of years, but this was the first “professional” handgun training I’ve had. It was very instructional for me. I learned what I needed to focus on, I learned new tactics, and I did a lot of things I had never done before, such as shooting from awkward positions because you might have to in a real-world defensive situation.

As MDFI’s website states, Handgun 1 stresses the importance of proper weapons manipulation and shooting techniques. It is designed to work with a shooter who has their CPL but is looking for further instruction on the real-world application of getting their gun into the fight and using it properly. The class covers mindset, proper draw stroke, trigger control and reset, admin and emergency reloads, malfunction clearance, and multiple target engagement. Handgun 2 picks up where Handgun 1 leaves off, focusing on movement in all directions, proper use of cover, strong/weak hand fighting, increased speed, movement and getting to cover at speed, multiple target engagement, and a more critical look at weapon manipulations for the draw stroke, reloads, solving the problems a malfunctioning firearm can create, shooting from the ground, the considerations to be made when the distance is very close or at the edge of our own personal effective range with a handgun, and other topics. This class is faster paced and more physically demanding than the Level 1 course, although not beyond the ability of most handgun carriers. The ammunition requirements for Handgun 1 are 500 rounds, and 600 rounds for Handgun 2, although you may not actually shoot that many. How many rounds you shoot depend on the class as a whole as well as your individual proficiency.

There were drills when I nailed it first shot every time, even running around. Then there were others when I would miss several times in a row (close but still miss) and have to stop for a second, slow it down and concentrate. “Threat!” Miss-miss-breathe-hit.

It soon became evident that I need to work on my consistency, especially as speed increased. That is one thing MDFI focuses on, increasing your speed during the class. Of course, my misses were just misses to the 6″ diameter center of mass, pelvic girdle, or the tiny “Y” in the head eye/nose region on a human silhouette target. All would still have been pretty bad — even devastating — in a real world self-defense situation.  But that’s the point, being able to be accurate while being under stress and being distracted by other things. That’s why MDFI does multiple step drills, so your mind has to think about all these other things yet you still have to be able to deliver accurate kill shots effectively and quickly all the while processing various info and dealing with malfunctions, out of ammo reloads (FEED IT! FEED IT! FEED IT!), and all the while using the least lethal firearm we have available, a pistol. And since every student is running a different gun and has probably shot a different number of rounds, we all run out of ammo at different times, not counting other issues, so every student is not necessarily always doing everything the exact same as the other students. You do whatever you need to do to stay in the fight.

I’m going to hear “jam mags and hydrate, be back in five” in my sleep as that’s all I’ve heard for two days.

Fighting from the ground during Handgun 2. The author, far left, in transition from sitting to a more upright position.

Early on day one we were doing a simple drill, one of those “two to the chest, one to the head, emergency reload, two to the pelvic girdle” things when half way through the instructor yells “FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!” This was unexpected and I had never heard this before, but I started dumping mags center mass!

As an example of one of the exercises we performed, during HG2 we had one drill where we had two 4’ x 8’ slotted barriers placed at opposite sides of the range, opposite orientation to each other. We had to run up to them, shoot an 8” x 10” steel plate 15 yards away through each hole in succession, top to bottom. We couldn’t move on until we had one hit in each hole. Misses don’t count. Then race across the field to the other barrier and do the same thing top to bottom on another 8” x 10” steel plate. The aim was, “one shot, one hit” as fast as you can: bang-ding, bang-ding, bang-ding, bang-ding. We ran this drill over and over in round robin fashion a number of times.

Fighting barricade adapted from Viking Tactics.

In between the rigorous training drills there are also opportunities for fun, including a couple of distance exercises. Of course, during the lunch hour, if you wish you can mingle with other MDFI students, talk, share thoughts, and shoot each other’s pistols and long guns.

MDFI stresses safety, both on and off the course. One of the first things they do is go over basic firearms safety and the safety rules and commands for the class. Not only do the instructors watch out for potential safety violations, but your fellow students do as well. In two days of instruction I did not see one muzzle sweep another person or be pointed in an unsafe direction, even when people were running with gun in hand. In addition to two primary instructors, we had additional class assistants that would watch, give individual instruction or “motivation” when necessary, and an EMT present.

MDFI also offers other courses, including Close Contact Shooting, Low Light, Carbine, Shotgun, Home Defense classes, a shoot house, and more. There’s even a new class they are just starting called Drill Skill. There’s so much more that I could say about these classes and the instructors, but I highly recommend you check them out for yourself.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s