In September I drove from Kansas City to the small town of Harrogate, Tennessee to attend a two-day pistol class at Valor Ridge, training under Reid Henrichs.
Over the course of the weekend, myself and thirteen other students blasted steel and paper targets like there was no tomorrow. The class was broken into two elements so that while half were shooting, the others could charge magazines, hydrate, and tend to nature’s call. Seemingly insignificant when compared to the rest of the material covered, this small detail allowed us to seamlessly transition between drills and kept everyone refreshed due to the short yet frequent breaks which kept the lessons in bite-size, digestible, pieces.
A Safety Brief In The Classroom Starts The Day
Our day began in the classroom with introductions and expectations—both ours of the instructors and the instructors of us. After fundamentals and safety, we moved to the range. While not the most technologically advanced, the range at Valor Ridge is a sight to behold. Two pistol bays facing opposite directions (one for paper, the other for steel), and multiple rifle lanes set up in various configurations at distances from fifty to three hundred yards, everything is tied together with awesome views of the Cumberland Gap and surrounding hills.
Most of our time was spent around seven yards, however, we worked distances as close as contact, out to 50 yards and everywhere in between.
The shooting was split roughly even between drawing from the holster and the “challenge position” (think of “low ready”, where the muzzle is just in front of the threat’s feet, with your sights already aligned). When explaining this ready position, Reid brought up a valid point that I’ve never heard repeated elsewhere: If you are only supposed to cover something with your muzzle when you are prepared to fire, then why do we muzzle people before we have made the decision to fire?
What happens if you accidentally touch off a round on someone who turns out to no longer be a threat that requires deadly force, or was never a threat in the first place? Keeping your muzzle just south of the person may save both your lives and adds what is essentially negligible time to the engagement process—especially when you already have your sights aligned.
Keeping your muzzle just south of the person may save both your lives.
A quick note regarding holsters: Valor Ridge is incredibly CCW-friendly. Reid encouraged us all to use our carry gun and holsters. He was actually somewhat surprised and disappointed that many of us had brought separate gear to train with than what we carry daily.
I won’t give away everything taught, but there was work from multiple angles including various prone positions, as well as movement. While I have trained shooting on the move, it was always either as a lone man firing or with a tightly controlled line so that nobody was ever in front of another.
Reid handles this a little differently.
Practice & Drilling Makes Perfect
One drill requires each student to fire on every target: once you finish with your first, you put your pistol at either a temple-index or a Sul (Editor’s note – The pistol is oriented towards the ground in this position while maintaining positive control.) and move around your classmates (who are firing on their targets or moving among the rest) until you find an open target to shoot, carrying on until everyone has finished. The purpose here is to get used to the idea of being in a crowded area and keeping positive control of your muzzle.
The other big movement drill began with everyone at the 10-yard line. On the command, you engage your target, then sprint to the 5-yard line, engage again, then return to the 10 and engage a final time. Movement and firing speed is up to the individual and results in shooters being forward and aft of each other during firing. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t totally comfortable with this drill, but not enough to call knock-it-off (Author note – Valor Ridge has never had a firearm related injury in class, and anyone is welcome to call a cease-fire at any time). Despite this, I understood the reasoning and had faith in the cadre and my fellow students to ensure everyone made it out with all their fleshy bits intact.
My concerns turned out to be unnecessary, with everyone maintaining solid muzzle control.
Marksmanship Is Key
Reid maintains a high marksmanship standard as you might expect from a Marine. The course description recommended at least 800 rounds of ammunition, though I only fired roughly 420 rounds. You may ask why there was such a disparity between the requirements and the results. Reid’s policy is to shoot until you get good hits in their version of the “A” zone on the target. If a drill calls for 2 shots to the A-zone, it may only take you 2 rounds, or it may take you 20, with your ability being what dictates your round count. While I only needed about half of the required ammo, there was a classmate or two who were scraping together their last few rounds at the end of the second day.
I walked away content with the firing portion of Pistolcraft 1.
Classroom/Story Time With Uncle Reid
The classroom material was a mixed bag at best. The concepts taught are all solid, nothing said raised any red flags from a tactical mindset.
Reid and Jeremiah were clear and concise with their language and certainly have a great deal of knowledge between them. Despite this, Reid would occasionally go off on tangents (sometimes historical, frequently political, and a few personal) for extended periods, that didn’t always have relevance to the lesson at hand. While I appreciate anecdotes that helped explain concepts or showed real life examples of successes (or failures) of training, many times I was left pondering how Reid got on a certain subject and how it was helping us to become better at what we had come here to learn. Some classmates shared my concerns, while others were enamored.
Personally, it was a massive turn-off, and I can see how it would turn many away.
How Would I Rate The Class?
Overall, I would rate my experience a 4/5 and would consider moving it up to a perfect had it not been for the off-topic lectures in the classroom. I would not hesitate to recommend Valor Ridge to those nearby, so long as a little political diatribe doesn’t light your fuse.