Training with ‘The Beard’.

Article Submitted by Mark Hatfield.

Chris Costa aka ‘The Beard’, has got quite a reputation, knowing, doing, teaching. When I learned that he would be teaching a class only fifty minutes from my home I couldn’t pass that up. What a deal, big name trainer, no long drive, no hotels. I signed up and paid in full, then it was canceled.

The cancelation had nothing to do with Costa, it was due to problems at the facility, caused by the owners. I was impressed by the effort of Costa Ludus (his organization) to make things right. They used more than one means to assure that I received the word including calling me at home to be certain. They also offered a complete refund or if I chose to let them hold my money towards a different class they added to it and increased the amount in my account, not just by ten or twenty bucks either. I let my money ride with them. It was some months later when I signed up for Vehicle Elements Theory, a three day class to be held in a location about three hours away.

Fighting from inside a car or starting from in or near a vehicle, usually in groups of two or four, this was a hoot, and ammo intensive. I had done some of this type of training previously but not firing from inside the vehicle nor as physically vigorous, such as crawling out from a vehicle. The old knees were troublesome and I was not yet recovered from a problem with the ribcage. Only two days before the start of the class I could again hold a handgun in the Isosceles position but not without some awkwardness and pain. Two days before that I could not do that position at all. Moving from positions such as standing to kneeling was painful so in all, that made the class a bit more challenging.

Firing from inside vehicles, using vehicles as cover or concealment, exiting vehicles, working in pairs or teams of four, coordinating with others (an important thing), and putting out lots of firepower, that’s pretty much what we did. It had been recommended to bring at least eight hundred each of carbine and handgun rounds. I estimated that I fired seven hundred of one and nine hundred of the other. We did not work from moving vehicles but The Beard did discuss with us the complexities of that. He did relay that some organizations spend two weeks doing these drills and those more complex.

When under fire and crawling out of a vehicle to the opposite side what do you do with your gun? If in a passenger car seated in the rear behind the driver and have a holstered handgun on your right side, how do you draw and fire out the window to your left without having your muzzle sweep the driver or some part of yourself? These are some of the problems we faced and practiced repeatedly.

A side note was the discussion of a particular hand position with the handgun and some variations of this position. The position is well known and laughed at by serious shooters. It was explained that there actually are some situations where this position can be of value, further, that there are certain scenarios where certain personnel are taught to use this position and he gave the reasons why. Agree with it or not, there actually may be some justification for it in some specific situations. So controversial is it though, that he chooses to not be photographed demonstrating it to avoid hassles or be thought of as an advocate of it’s use.

It was interesting that he explained he made no distinction in teaching whether for the military, law enforcement, or private citizens, he believed in giving each the same material.

There was a period in the first day where I felt like ‘That Guy’ as some say, meaning that I was the problem person, or the one who ‘just didn’t get it’ or get up to speed. I had become accustomed to using always the same guns and gear in such classes and was going to try some variants on this occasion. Also, rather frustrating, when packing, I could not find my usual holsters. In my hotel room the night before the class I discovered that guns and holsters I intended to use were not compatible so on the first day I used a holster which I had rarely worn. Because of this, on that first day of class when reholstering I discovered that because of only a slight difference in my holster, my hand could not slip the gun in automatically as I had for so many years, I had to search for and find the opening of the holster for the muzzle to enter. During our warm-up and assessment drills that really slowed me down. I had decided to not wear web gear for the rifle mags but just to place extra mags in my pants pockets. I had done this some before however I did not realize what a huge difference there would be between different pairs of pants in how difficult it might be to remove those mags.

Also in that period on the first day we did some rifle drills which I know about but don’t practice and he was pushing for speed. There was one skill drill which I essentially gave up as we had to immediately prepare the gun for the next repetition but then later also had to be ready for a possible variation. If you stayed ready for the possible variation then then he might only call for the main drill for which your gun was not ready and could not be made ready in time. If you made ready for the main drill then it was not possible to do the variation if called. I honestly wondered if he forgot what drills he was having us do. It seemed that others may have been having the same problem. Or maybe it was just me. There were no other such complications throughout the class.

People who are not military, Secret Service or such tend not to realize how much of their life involves the car or other vehicle. What was taught and practiced in this class is not just for those special guys but can apply to everyone. Some of the more physical stuff I was tempted to opt out and sit those out but I am very glad that I did not. What most of the other students would have done in some of the vehicle drills was not possible for me and I’m glad to have found what I could do while under supervision and in a controlled environment. Never think that ‘it’ can’t happen to you. As I learned also in the military, even a small amount of rehearsal can make a big improvement in your response when something happens ‘for real’. I’m glad I went.