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I had the good fortune to receive a handgun shooting class from Quinn Cunningham when I was researching an article on Colorado’s FASTER program. FASTER stands for Faculty/Administrator Safety Training and Emergency Response, a program to enable teachers, administrators and other school employees to stop school violence quickly and administer advanced first aid techniques. Cunningham is an active duty Colorado law enforcement officer, Active Shooter instructor, a SWAT Team leader, has twenty-two years of operational instruction—seventeen in tactical positions—and is ranked Grandmaster in Production Division in the United States Practical Shooting Association.

I was learning from one of the best instructors anywhere. My firearm was a newly-acquired CZ 9 mm Accushadow II, accompanied by a case each of Fiocchi 115 grain FMJ and 115 grain JHP ammunition. We shot at paper and metal knock-down targets. I fired more ammunition that hour than I do in half a year.

The Seven Fundamentals of Shooting

Cunningham patiently taught me the seven shooting fundamentals: grip, stand, sight alignment, breathing, follow through, trigger manipulation and mindset. My instruction began with the grip, sight alignment and trigger fundamentals. Cunningham uses a powerful vise-like grip, more intense than any I’d ever used. He is a muscular man and even he does hand-strength exercises for conditioning. I found the stronger grip helped keep the Accushadow on target after each shot. Old habits needed to be broken to implement the sight alignment fundamental, for I had developed the deficient tendency to lower the sighting plane to see where I hit. Keep the focus on the target or on the front sight depending on which skill—speed or accuracy—or which variable—close or distant targets—that exists. Cunningham emphasized that the sights should have the alignment JUST necessary for the shot presented.  The shooter should have the visual discipline to consciously watch the sights lift from the target after each shot, enabling the shooter to read the sights and make constant adjustments on shot placement.

Trigger manipulation was, to be candid, the most challenging fundamental. When shooting for accuracy, the trigger is the priority. The shooter must have the discipline to allow the sights to float on the target while consciously easing the trigger straight to the rear until the shot breaks. This is “see the sights, but FEEL the trigger.” When shooting for speed, the more difficult skill of blending trigger pull with sight alignment must be employed.

Last, Cunningham emphasized that humans cannot multi task. Thus, shooters must prioritize which of the seven fundamentals takes precedence for the shot presented. Cunningham said he first teaches front sight focus to students although he does a lot of target focus. He elaborated: “It all depends on the target you have and distance. I typically use target focus from 0 to 15 yards and, with bigger targets, out to 25 yards.” He does not initially teach target focus until the students reach a high proficiency level because they are not experienced enough to know when to use it. “However,” he adds, “when I teach advanced students target focus, it blows their minds.”

Additional tips from Quinn Cunningham will be published.

For More Information:

Quinn Cunningham: Fortitude Training Concepts

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