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03-07-2009, 08:41 PM #1
Training day with OFA (Oregon Firearms Academy)
I was asked several times awhile back by some folks if I could recommend Oregon Firearms Academy (OFA) as a training place to gain knowledge in the area of combat & defensive shooting. I told them I could not, only because I’ve not been there and witnessed in person what actually is in the curriculum and how they go about teaching it.
My background is over 20 years as a LEO, with most of that being a firearms instructor. Not only teaching for my own departments, but at the police academy, as well as being part of the cadre that helped re-write the academy firearms curriculum.
I have seen and heard what the other area training facilities programs have to offer, but have not been to Brownsville Oregon to see first hand how the ‘red shirts’ go about their biz there. For those of you who haven’t heard the term ‘red shirt’, it refers to a firearms instructor’s apparel. They most usually wear red, so they can be readily seen and identified by anyone on the range.
It just so happens that I moderate on northwestfirearms.com with one of their owners, Dan Abbott. I emailed Dan about the possibility of sitting in on a class to get first hand experience of what they are all about. He said he’d do one better than that, and offered to have me participate in their Defensive Handgun 1 class on February 21st, and who am I not to accept such an offer?
Later that same week I received a class conformation in the mail. Also included was a welcome letter outlining some of their operational rules required upon arriving for class, and a small card advertising their Pro-Shop and what they inventory.
Two weeks later I found myself on the road at 4am, to be at the facility by the 7:30 check in time. As I left the I-5 corridor, one must think ”Is this a dream job or what?” Getting out of the valley into some soft rolling hills of rural life, now this is what I’m used to.
I was met in the parking area by none other than Steve Eichelberger, resident attorney, one of the firearms instructors, as well as chief parking lot attendant and tour guide. He shows the masses where and how to park in their small yet quaint facility, and shows everyone the layout and where to find everything. Dan was the next to pass his hand and welcome me to the Academy.
Though the facility is part of a large 1,000+ acre farm, the Academy encompasses only a very small portion of that, about 2-3 acres. In walking around before class, I saw a well laid out facility capable of multiple uses. The first and foremost thing that stuck out, one can actually use the range in a 180 degree manner, how many ranges can you think of that are capable of that? There’s a shoot house, comfortable classroom, another building for students to get out of the weather while attending classes, storage for the range equipment, and the famous ‘fiddle table’. This is where one can go at anytime, with the instructor’s knowledge, un-holster their firearm and do any manipulation while pointed in a safe direction. Most all ranges have them, but this one is very large and is somewhat isolated off in an area that allows for instructors to work with students if needed.
OFA's range layout;
Western Town which houses restrooms and wash facilities;
In the classroom are the usual long tables and chairs for students, rows of books, videos on shooting, weapon armorer information, walls decorated with awards and articles about the Academy. Then there’s the Pro-Shop, where students can purchase items they forget, which I might add for a reasonable price. Most places seem to punish the student for forgetting a piece of equipment, by charging outrageous prices, you won’t find that here.
The first hour of the day started in the classroom with introductions of the staff, Dan Abbott, Steve Eichelberger, Dave Young, Joe Shorten, Co-Owner Rick Benson, and later in the day Joe Picciano. Then there was the usual ceremonial waiver signing, course book handout, and safety issues to go through. If there’s one thing that I encountered throughout the day, it was attention to detail with safety being number one. The staff in every facet of the day showed its colors in making sure everyone was safe, comfortable, and of course having a good time.
The class totaled 15 students, with me round it up to 16, with a make up of 12 males, and 3 females. I spoke to some throughout the day, and found most had little or no previous formal training, other than the OFA’s prerequisite for this course, that being the Basic Handgun Safety course.
Dan went over the different courses that OFA offers, explaining the differences in each, and what to expect this day. This class emphasized fundamentals, with knowledge and skill being the foundation. He smoothly integrated safety issues with some firearm nomenclature, and went into Oregon law as it pertains to self defense/use of deadly force, also added what this course ultimately is designed to do; “….which is to teach the student how to defend oneself from 2 & 4 legged things.”
He talked about the OFA’s philosophy on “Why we do, what we do” approach, with the acronym of SUL being the basis. I’ve not heard this taught before, and was impressed with how they added it into the classroom portion. SUL, first off is Portuguese for the word south. SUL is a technique widely used for the firearm position to safely scan 360 degrees about you, but in this instance was used for the following in describing their litmus test to any technique they teach;
S – Safe – Is it a safe technique?
U – Universal – Is it universal to all handguns used in class?
L – Logical – Is it logical in the purpose to what is being accomplished?
Dan finished up with a short talk on attitude with the phase “I can’t” being the center. He stated every student can do what will be taught that day, with emphasis on positive enforcement of the techniques. The phrase “I can’t” is not allowed, and had everyone write it, circle it, then put a line through it. Off to the range we go….Train at the speed of a gunfight.
03-07-2009, 08:53 PM #2
The range is small, yet large enough to run 15-16 students at a time, each in their own lane back to 25 yards. Its flat, pea/finish sized gravel surface bodes well with all the training they offer.
The equipment used is that by Action Target. Steel plates, runners, and target holders which can rock back and forth, in which there is more than enough equipment to teach and train most any kind of up to date style and technique.
We started with safety on the range. How to make sure the line is clear, so students and Admin alike can move around safely, an emergency response plan should anyone get injured, and the ‘School Circle’ This is where the class comes together to get their briefing on the next portion taught.
Red shirts a plenty, to keep everyone safe;
Demonstrations of skills taught;
Learning to check your '6';
We started with administrative functions, such as loading and unloading, then moved into the 4-point draw, reloads, one hand firing, and went into clearing the most common malfunctions. I find the name of the malfunctions only varies slightly. OFA uses ‘Phase 1 & 2’, whereas I’m used to ‘Type 1 & 2’, but the malfunctions are the same, as well as the way to clear them. We finished up with shooting around barricades, Close Quarters Battle (CQB) techniques, with some backward movement added in.
Practicing with the barrel/barricades;
The range training concluded with a qualification course of fire that some of the Oregon LE departments actually use, starting from almost contact distance, ending at the 10-yard line in the kneeling position behind a barrel/barricade.
The day ended back in the classroom with feedback on the day from both instructors and students. There was the ‘formal’ graduation ceremony complete with ‘pomp & circumstance’ playing in the background (nice touch guys!) while handing out completion certificates, and OFA pins. The pins are color coded to reflect how you did on the qualification course. Gold, for every shot in the A zone; Silver for every shot in the A or B zone; and Bronze for keeping all your shots on the silhouette. The group that day kept all their shots in the A & B zones…great job people!
How did I do on the 25 round qualification course?;
Train at the speed of a gunfight.
03-07-2009, 09:09 PM #3
While OFA may not be a world class training facility, but take note; OFA is ranked a 4 Star Range (out of five) by the National Association of Shooting Ranges, which is a direct affiliate of NSSF/SHOT. They are only one of less than a dozen ranges in the US with such distinction. So don’t let their small size fool you.
Having been through many training classes myself, by a wide variety of nationally known instructors, I can say OFA differs little with schools costing hundreds of dollars more.
Look over the training credentials of each of the instructors at OFA, they have been through hundreds of hours of very expensive training, so you don’t have to. They, like me, then take those skills learned and integrate them into their training program for you.
There’s no ‘one’ training facility or school that will make you a ‘ninja’ or the like. These types of classes at OFA and at every other training facility across the country are designed to give you the tools needed to progress you in your own training, on your own time after you leave the class. The skills taught here and elsewhere are diminishable. Meaning, if you don’t keep up on the practice side of these skills, they will go away. This is not like riding a bicycle.
Also, practice does not make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect. Take the skills you learn here, and practice them slowly, as speed will come over time, along with your knowledge of where and when to use each. I know ammunition is expensive, but 50 rounds a month of quality trigger time, using what you’re taught at a class such as this, will always gain you more than 200 rounds of blasting away. By training at OFA, you’ll be able pocket the money saved from the more expensive training facilities, and put that into ammunition. Most all of the skills taught here and at other facilities can be done dry, without firing a round. Take advantage of that, and hone those skills and knowledge.
The 'Red Shirts' and me;
L to R; Joe Picciano, OFA co-owner Dan Abbott, Joe Shorten, yours truly, Dave Young, OFA co-owner Rick Benson.
Overall I give Dan, Rick, and the rest of the crew a big thumbs up! There’s a competent, knowledgeable training facility in your backyard with OFA, my suggestion is that one takes advantage of it.
Train at the speed of a gunfight.
03-07-2009, 09:12 PM #4
Great write up steve!
"...we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender..."
03-07-2009, 09:38 PM #5
- Join Date
- Nov 2008
- Central OR
03-07-2009, 11:04 PM #6
- Join Date
- Aug 2008
- SE Portland, Oregon
Thanks for the review and photo's Steve! I wish OFA offered more classes as most of the ones on their schedule seem to be full for months in advance...
03-07-2009, 11:14 PM #7
Very nice write-up - thanks for posting this. Good pics, too.
03-08-2009, 05:52 PM #8
- Join Date
- Nov 2008
- Beaverton, OR
Well done! Great photos.
I went through this class last week and had a great time, learned a ton. First rate operation.
03-09-2009, 03:34 AM #9
- Join Date
- Mar 2009
03-23-2009, 09:13 AM #10
- Join Date
- Oct 2008
- Beaver Nation expat
Nice write-up, wichaka.
Brings back lots of great memories!
03-23-2009, 03:36 PM #11
- Join Date
- Dec 2008
- Bend, OR
Great write up! I took DH1 a week after you and just took the two day GLOCK defensive course this weekend.
+1 for OFA, a great bunch of guys and first rate training. I'll be doing a short write up on the GLOCK course sometime in the near future but suffice it to say it was excellent.
07-30-2009, 04:08 PM #12
- Join Date
- Jul 2009
- Lane County
Very good thread. I will definately check them out sometime.
10-17-2009, 01:48 PM #13
- Join Date
- May 2009
- Oregon Coast - Lincoln City
Great write-up, and excellent pictures. I was finally able to show my wife just what I did while there last month for DH1.