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Training Review: InSights Training Center’s General Defensive Handgun

Topic: Shooting, Pistol

Instructor/School: InSights Training Center is a shooting and tactical training school founded by Greg M. Hamilton. The school offers classes to military, law enforcement, and civilians in the Seattle, Washington area. While the school employs numerous instructors, Greg himself was the instructor for the class being reviewed here. Greg was a US Army Ranger and Special Forces soldier but also had his foot in the competitive speed shooting world and trained with folks like John Shaw at Mid-South. He’s definitely a bit of a wizard with a handgun but, much more importantly, he’s also trained numerous other people to be top-tier competitive shooters. Greg is brash, extremely cocky, and overflowing with opinions, but he has such a deep mastery of his subject matter that whether you like him or not, you’ll listen. He’s also a military history buff, so if you share an interest in the minutiae of 20th century war, you’ll find an eager interlocutor.

Content: The InSights General Defensive Handgun (GDH) course is a two-day course taking people with basic gun familiarity / competency and exposing them to concepts relevant to a “self defense” shooter. It’s a mix of simple-but-important practical shooting exercises interspersed with classroom discussions on various topics of interest to the shooter operating within a legally and socially defensible framework. The first day of the class sometimes has a concurrent basic handgunning class happening, so the range time operates on a strict schedule as each class rotates in and out. The only curriculum overlap between the two — where both classes receive didactic instruction together — are on firearms safety and on US self-defense law.

The class includes an introduction to what InSight’s calls the “integrated act of firing” as it exists for the modern technique of pistolry. Stance, grip, aiming, trigger press, and follow-through are all covered. The topics receive adequate treatment, at least in terms of what someone can absorb in a short introductory class. This class doesn’t say everything that can be said on these topics; Intensive Handgun Skills (IHS), which is a follow-up to this class in the InSights progression, takes each of these topics and goes down a rabbit hole to depths that GDH doesn’t touch.

The range drills are not exotic: Bill Drill, Farnam Drill, that sort of thing. Work with a timer is introduced, which is quite nice as it exposes people early to the idea that you need to measure and collect data to chart progress. A simple idea, but one that’s almost unheard of in most of the shooting world, where 80-90% of shooters can’t answer questions like, “What’s your draw time?” “What’s your El Pres time?” or similar.

Gun handling is one of the focuses of the range time: the draw, speed (run empty) reloads, tactical reloads. Practice of these is integrated into the other drills, which we prefer, rather than just a series of ten or twenty reloads done all at once. Immediate action and remedial action drills are taught and practiced.

For the classroom portions, topics include priorities of survival, Jeff Cooper’s famous color codes of awareness, how to properly and safely develop a dry-fire routine, ballistics/incapacitation, weapon and gear selection, and the use of force continuum and legally justified use of deadly force. Of particular importance here are the priorities of survival concept and the discussion of self-defense law. The latter is an hour-plus long module, both generic to the US generally and Washington state specific, taught with candor and insight. It’s of tremendous value, of course, simply for its content, but doubly so as it’s taught in such an engaging manner. The class was engaged, thoughtful, surprised, and laughing through much of it.

The priorities of survival concept, immortalized on InSights staff t-shirts, is that the single most important attribute for surviving a gunfight is mental conditioning, followed by, in decreasing order of importance, tactics, skill, and, in last place, equipment. Mental conditioning includes situational awareness, decisiveness to act, reactionary gaps, understanding “prey drive,” etc. (Rory Miller and others would probably add avoiding the Monkey Dance here.) The rest are rather self-explanatory. We like very much that gear/equipment occupies the lowest rung here, as so much of the tactical training world is caught up in trying to buy skills or success via some bit of gear. No magic, no shortcuts. Greg inserts stories that directly relate to modeling and building mindset throughout the two days.

Overall, we think this is an excellent “defensive handgun” or “tactical pistol” type course, superior in content to others we’ve attended. The practical/range portion of it is minimized, but it’s in favor of very important ancillary topics that are going set the student on the right path to further growth as a shooter, make them a more prudent concealed firearms carrier, help them avoid wasting money and countless training hours on nonsense, etc. If at all possible, this class should fall after basic modern technique introduction and some practice, but before someone commits to a specific caliber, handgun model, expensive gear, etc. If you buy what the internet and gun magazines say is best, you’ll likely suffer some serious buyer’s remorse after taking this class. (Spoiler alert: the answer is a Glock 9mm.)

RMSR Recommended: Yes.

Pre-requisites: Basic gun handling / shooting familiarity, but preferably without already having obtained training scars from doing it wrong.

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