Review: Speed Marksmanship with J.J. Racaza

TSG signed up to take a course with J.J. Racaza called Speed Marksmanship held at the Clark County shooting facility in Las Vegas. Some of you might know the name from the television series “Top Shot” and some of you might know his name from the competition world.

J.J. Racaza instructing students at Speed Marksmanship shooting class.
J.J. Racaza instructing students at Speed Marksmanship shooting class.

But what most don’t know is that he has spent a substantial part of his career dedicated to the Department of Homeland Security in operating and training.

That combination of competition and practical firearms perspective made this course extremely interesting.

First things first: this a high-level class. It is not for beginners. The subtle concepts will be lost on those who have not attained an advanced level of skill. Seriously — if you are not willing to explore the advanced concepts of trigger control for 6 hours, this is not the class for you.

The exciting aspect of this course was the focus on breaking through the “normal” concepts of shooting and give you a doorway into the physical and mental aspects of the world’s fastest competitive shooters. It is designed to ruthlessly push your boundaries and force you onto a whole new level of shooting. And J.J. does this in a really, really engaging way.

That being said, J.J. emphasized the “marksmanship” aspect of the course title. It doesn’t matter how fast you are shooting if you are not hitting your target. He reinforced this concept during some of the competitive challenges during the course — only the times with hits were counted. In other words, students with extremely fast misses were disqualified leaving slower students who achieved hits as winners.

Here is a video from the course showing J.J. coaching Brad. The goal of the drill is to increase the speed of the shot transitioning from the near paper target to the far steel target.

As you can see, J.J. is saying Brad had a “delayed press” on the first string. He is coaching him to begin prepping the trigger even as he transitions from the paper target to the steel one about 15 yards beyond. The coaching yields a dramatically improved time for the second string.

Speed Marksmanship Course Concepts

  1. The fundamentals mastered.
  2. Trigger control.
  3. Presentation.
  4. Target transitions.

Class Pros and Cons

These are impressions coming from our experience for one particular day.  Remember that variables such as a different day, a different location or a different group of students can have an effect on the course experience for you. In other words, your mileage might vary.  Also take into account the yin/yang aspect of a positive aspect creating a corresponding negative aspect. Increased personal attention and coaching = pro. The corresponding drag on the rest of the class = con.  You decide what’s more important to you.

Pros

  • J.J. has an engaging personality and his teaching method is a good blend of friendly and firm. He’s the type of instructor who pushes you in a way that makes you want to perform.
  • Surprising amount of personal coaching and one-on-one time.
  • The concepts are extremely advanced which challenge you.
  • Instructor who DOES what he is teaching.  J.J. demonstrates the concepts giving you concrete examples for some very esoteric information. Demonstrating the drills and the concepts at a very, very high level also reinforces the credibility of the instructor. In this case, J.J. makes most of it look easy.  When he pushes himself towards the upper limits of his own speed, you start to see his accuracy degrading — just like students experience.  In business leadership, this expression of vulnerability (J.J. showing us he is human as he begins to “fail”) establishes trust among the group.
  • The concepts are measured. The shot timer is out and used religiously giving students a very real barometer of performance. This is important because some of the methods, particularly for transitions between targets, are perceived to be “slower”, yet the timer proves they are actually faster.
  • Friendly competition and making a game out of the drills adds to the fun and keeps interest.

Cons

  • The length of the course might challenge your concentration and attention for a skill  that demands concentration and attention.
  • The personal coaching time for individual students leaves the rest of the group with some down time. This is great for reloading magazines, hydrating, snacking. But it can make the overall course tempo feel somewhat slower — particularly later in the evening.

Cost

$250 for 9 hours of instruction and training.  Expect to shoot about 500 rounds.

Check out more background on J.J. in the video below:

Lessons from Katrina: Neighborhood Defense

Here’s an article that originally appeared on the Defend University website about a real-life example of how you might be forced to defend yourself in a catastrophic event where there is no law enforcement around. 

A number of my team members from the agency I was connected to at the time volunteered to go to New Orleans to assist other LE units trying to restore order when local cops fled.  They told of some eerie scenes at night where the bad guys would assemble in certain intersections under the cover of almost complete darkness with just the lights of their cell phones making out their activities. They would assemble for a few minutes and then promptly vanish off into different katrina devastationdirections. The assumption at the time was that these groups were obviously up to no good — but the LEOs who were on station at various checkpoints had no directions to pursue or investigate.

Here’s the impressions I get from the news stories about this one particular neighborhood defense organization:

  1. These are not professionals.  Clearly they are a mixed bag of personalities and skills — however their motivation and creativity to protect their neighborhood is admirable. (If they can do it, you can do it).
  2. The first rule of gunfighting is to have a gun. You can argue that a .22 magnum pistol and an antique 8mm Mauser are less than optimal as self-defense firearms, but having a firearm that you can manage and are confident with is a major advantage in these sort of situations.
  3. Yes, Virginia, real gunfights do occur and you have to have the will and the skill to defend yourself when no one else can.

katrina_defendSome of the other anecdotal stories I had heard about successful defense of homes and neighborhoods included the use of cars as barricades in front of homes and, in one case, the success by a single defender driving off an armed group of gang members with a 12 gauge shotgun.  Supposedly, the guy’s front porch and steps were littered with about 25 empty shotshell husks following the incident (meaning you might have to reload — multiple times). Other neighborhoods hired outside security firms to patrol the perimeter.

You and I may never find ourselves in this sort of situation again in our lifetimes.  Then again, we might.  You can never say never. Find your knowledge from others’ experiences and successes.

Train like your life depends on it.