Reviews of the Bill Jeans Shotgun class
This is a discussion on Reviews of the Bill Jeans Shotgun class within the NEShooters forums, part of the Training category; Bill Jeans Shotgun Class, October 21-23, 2011, Pelham, NH This report is a little more personally focused than what I ...
10-26-2011, 08:36 AM #1
Reviews of the Bill Jeans Shotgun class
Bill Jeans Shotgun Class, October 21-23, 2011, Pelham, NH
This report is a little more personally focused than what I would usually write, but it relates to my experience of the course.
In 1986 I took my Gunsite 250 and in 1991 I took the 223 course. I was then in my thirties and my goal was to place at least in the top quartile of the class. In my 250 I managed to place third in the shoot-off and fourth in my 223, IIRC.
Since then, with kids and work and a house to keep up, I have slacked off on training and don’t even get around to shooting that much. Making a trip out to Gunsite became too costly and time-consuming for me. In the last few years, though, Mike Nastek and Jim Conway have been bringing top-flight instructors to New England for three-day courses at the Pelham Fish & Game Club. I have been able to fit these into my budget and schedule and so far I have attended the “Summit” twice, done two courses with Southnarc, and most recently the shotgun class with Bill Jeans.
Though I’m in reasonably good shape, I have always been slow to develop physical skills. When I took a ballroom dancing class in high school, I was still trying to remember which foot went where when everyone else was waltzing. This is still a problem for me, now pushing 60, and I have had to become more realistic about how well I can expect to perform in a class. I no longer concern myself with where I rank, but focus on improving whatever skills I can, not sniveling, and--whatever other mistakes I may make--not breaking the Four Rules.
I vacillated about taking Bill’s class because, though I had bought an SGT shotgun in the early 1990s, it had been sitting in my safe ever since, unfired. I had less interest in the shotgun than in the pistol, carbine and rifle, and in fact had thought about selling it in recent years. However, I conferred with George Mandes, a Bill Jeans alumnus, and he strongly advised me to take advantage of the opportunity to train with him. George is my “Consumer Reports” guy on all matters gun-related, so I signed up.
I’m not going to go on about how we patterned our guns, sighted in our slugs, learned the manual of arms, practiced our fighting platform and movement, etc. I am going to say that Bill was a fantastic guy to train with, as many of you already know. I met Bill at Gunsite in 1991 when he was managing the place, and of course read his posts on the API list. I knew he knows his guns, has a lot of BTDT experience, has uncompromising political views, a rich knowledge of history, a strong sense of personal honor, and, though he hates Hollywood, loves movies with a passion. However, I didn’t realize that he is also hilarious. Though fairly laconic on the list, in person he is a veritable fountain of instruction, observation, historical commentary, personal experience, obscure movie references, wisecracks, and jokes. However serious the training, he kept it fun.
People tell Bill he ought to write a book, but he says he’s not interested and, anyway, enough other people are writing books. However, I think I could fill up a book in a week or so if I followed him around with a tape recorder. Let me try to reconstruct one short soliloquoy from memory: “Some people say using a shotgun for self-defense is overkill. There’s no such problem as overkill! When you’ve got to kill someone, either you kill them or you don’t. If you don’t, that’s when you’ve got a problem--call it ‘underkill.’ Underkill is a problem; overkill is not.”
When Jim Conway announced the shotgun class, he said there would be a roast for Bill on Saturday night and asked me to do a caricature of him we could put on t-shirts. The first thing that popped into my head was that “Fightin’ Irish” mascot of Notre Dame, so I drew that with Bill’s likeness, a kilt, a shotgun, a pistol, a sword, and combat boots. I also came up with some ideas for gag gifts, and a few days before the class Jim informed me I was going to be the MC.
There was another guy going to the class from Connecticut, Gordon Jones. I didn’t know him, but Jim put us in touch and we decided to ride up together. In every class I’ve been in, there is always one unusually big, strong guy. Gordon was the Big Guy in ours, the one Bill would point to and say, “If you ever have to fight a really big guy like Gordon . . .” On the ride up Gordon mentioned that he’d graduated college with a degree in opera and in his twenties supported himself singing in pubs.
“So, you know a few Irish songs?” I asked.
“I know a few,” he acknowledged.
“I think I have a gig for you,” I told him.
The roast was held at the home of Mike Nastek, whose significant other Denise cooked up a terrific Italian dinner. After dinner and much animated conversation, we got on with the main event. I presented Bill with his official Gabe Suarez Combat Grimace Mask; distributed “Obama 2012, 2016, 2020, etc.” bumper stickers; a “personally autographed” photo of Jane Fonda in her Barbarella outfit emblazoned with Morrigan emblems; a flask of Jack Daniels with a Jameson 1780 label pasted onto it; a real bottle of Jamesons; and a few other items that should probably go unmentioned.
Then, just before we broke up, I asked Gordon if he would sing us something Irish. No one else had any idea that Gordon was a professional singer and when they heard him perform “The Parting Glass” a capella the effect could best be described as awestruck. It was a great night.
Among the pleasures of the class was the chance to meet up with fellow Ravens. I got to see Jim Smith again, whom I had visited at the gunshop where he was working some years ago in Maine. I also got to talk to former api-lister Doug Howlett, who’s an outstanding shooter and a very squared-away kind of person. It was a pleasure to finally meet Marc Danziger, who is one of those people I always knew I would like from reading his posts.
Trying to keep up with the flow of instruction, I skipped the lunch breaks to stay on the range and practice the manipulations and movements. Nevertheless, during the drills when we had to rapidly transition from shooting birdshot on metal to shooting slugs on paper, I was the one guy who put a slug on the metal. (At least it was a nice center hit.) I was also the one guy who couldn’t keep his magazine fed fast enough during the climactic Rolling Thunder drill, but my team still edged out the other on points because everyone else was so HSLD.
I had heard about how physically punishing the class was and had even bought a PAST pad to wear if I needed it, but I found it unnecessary. I didn't get particularly sore. The only thing I wished I’d thought to bring was some dummy rounds so I could practice loading in my hotel room.
When I was in the Southnarc class last month, I talked to some other class members about the upcoming Bill Jeans’ course and found that the reason a lot of people chose not to take it was because they are just not that interested in the shotgun. But during the course I realized that when you’re training with someone of Bill’s caliber, it doesn’t matter that you don’t fancy the shotgun--at least two-thirds of what you’ll get out of the class is applicable to any firearm. The skills I picked up will help me with the carbine and pistol, and I am loving my shotgun now that I’ve worn the new off it.
PS, here's the lyrics of “The Parting Glass.”
Of all the money that e'er I had,
I spent it in good company.
And all the harm that e'er I did,
Alas! it was to none but me.
And all I've done for want of wit
To mem'ry now I can't recall
So fill to me the parting glass
Good night and joy be with you all.
If I had money enough to spend,
And leisure time to sit awhile,
There is a fair maid in this town,
That sorely has my heart beguiled.
Ah rosy cheeks and ruby lips,
I own she has my heart in thrall,
So fill to me the parting glass,
Good night and joy be with you all.
Of all the comrades that e'er I had,
They're sorry at my going away,
And all the sweethearts that e'er I had, They'd wish me one more day to stay,
But since it falls unto my lot,
That I should rise and you should not,
I’ll gently rise and softly call,
Good night and joy be with you all.
10-26-2011, 08:37 AM #2
Paul K's recap kind of shamed me into trying to do a better recap...
First: learnings. On Thursday I had no idea exactly what a shotgun was for except a high-impact weapon that was suitable for close ranges and use by less-trained shooters. On Monday, I realized that I was pretty much wrong, and that it was in fact a limited-capacity high-effectiveness weapon that in skilled hands covers ranges from near-contact to 50 - 60yds. Which, as a civilian, happen to me most of the ranges I care about.
As someone who has hunted with pump guns and even shot a fair amount of trap and skeet with them, the mechanics were pretty familiar - except, of course, that I did them all wrong. Having nearly died because I fought as I trained, I'm sensitive to those issues - and Bill made it really clear what we did that were 'range habits' and needed to go away. I spent a lot of time loading the sidesaddle of the gun only to immediately reload the gun from the sidesaddle...I'm almost broken of the 'reach into the dump pouch for more ammo' habit and will keep working to break myself of it.
Bill's take on stance - the 'box' - was so painfully obvious once he explained it that I almost left the range in embarrassment because I hadn't understood it before. It fits perfectly with stuff that I'm listening to from Rory Miller about CQB, and elaborates stuff that I'm trying to tie together. Looking at the pictures, I have a way to go to get it right - but at least I know what I'm doing wrong. They key is to rotate my right (strong side) foot further in toward the target.
The times I really cranked it, it was amazing how much more control I had of the gun.
Bill also laid out with crystal clarity what we want from a shotgun, and helped me come up with a very clear shopping list for what I need in my second shotgun that my wife will use - and how to decide if I need to get her a softer-running semi or if she can use a pump gun.
(If she can run a triple successfully with a pump, she doesn't need a semi; if not, she does).
My shopping list at Hans Vang is not excessively long, and next payday I'll be buying my stuff there and having my current gun refactored a bit and getting a new one tuned up as well.
Physically I'm semi old and broke-down but really didn't feel too bad even today (a little black and blue on my shoulder, but that's a sign my pocket wasn't open enough).
Next: the deeper learnings. I've talked a lot about the 'society of friends' (and not in a Quaker sense) this place is for me, and how much I value the relationships with all of you (even Andy!!...who I'm bummed didn't make it to dinner). every class I take makes that more evident and deeper.
It means a lot to me to sit at that table, and while I acknowledge I'm at the foot of the table, well below the salt...I still hope to have a seat and raise a glass when the time comes.
Another movie line that hit me was "You Marines are sure a weepy bunch..." and yes, Bill and the others are, and so am I. And I'm thankful for that.
Marc "Armed Liberal"
10-26-2011, 11:37 AM #3
- Join Date
- May 2009
Jim, thanks for posting. Classes this time of year on weekends are bad for me. I have wanted to take Bill's shotgun class but the stars have yet to align. He is one of the best. The shotgun is probably the most misunderstood weapons out there. Its been awhile since I've run a gauge mine are Ithaca M37s I was wondering what Bills take on it would be. Take care Robbie
10-28-2011, 12:45 PM #4