Roger's Shooting School "Test Your Metal" Review
If someone asked me, what kind of shooter are you? I would answer; “I’m a competitive shooter with a tactical mindset.” I started shooting with a defensive mindset but fell in love with competition along the way. I’ve shot hundreds of thousands of rounds at matches and in service, but have never fired a single one in self-defense. I think this where many of us find ourselves. I’ve taken a lot of classes to become a better shooter and a lot of classes to teach me some tactical fundamentals. But rarely do the two cross paths, this is where Bill’s school is different. It bridges the gap between shooting skills and their tactical application.
I’m going to be honest with you. This was the most challenging school I’ve ever attended, it will humble you. Bill’s course is uncompromising. It is a mainstay of training for Special Operation soldiers around the world as well as some of the best LEO teams our country has to offer. If you’re able to get a class date, consider yourself lucky. Most of the schedule is filled with teams preparing for deployment, and civilian slots are limited. The advanced class takes a full week, Monday through Friday, and the ammo allotment is 500-600 rounds a day. That’s far from a weekend with a traveling instructor at your local range. Yes, it’s a serious commitment. One that I’ve found was worth every minute and every round.
The Roger’s Shooting School is located just north of the little town of Ellijay, Georgia at the bottom end of the Smokie Mountains. I was fortunate to set the class for late October. The leaves were changing and a carpet of scarlet and gold covered the landscape. This is one of the prettiest places I’ve ever traveled to. The range is about fifteen plus minutes north of town up Highway 52. This highway just happens to be part of the Georgia Scenic Highway, just to give you an idea of the setting. The winding road through those gentle mountains is breathtaking with mountain streams and scenic landscapes at every turn. I found it so beautiful, that my wife and I go back frequently to the area to ride motorcycles and overland with our Jeep.
We awoke early on Monday morning, ate breakfast and headed for the range. We got to the line and went through our safety briefs. Bill’s range is comprised of eight lanes, they are all the same and I found myself on the same lane through the entire class. There are three students per lane and you rotate through the drills. You are either shooting, reloading, coaching, or spotting for the shooters in your relay. There is no downtime, you are busy throughout the entire day. Each lane consists of a series of 7 pop up steel targets ranging from 7 to 21 yards distant that appear from behind different pieces of hardcover. You work through a series of drills and the targets appear for .5-1 second and disappear. We jumped right in and began busting caps, working one drill after another.Our class started officially on Sunday evening at the bunkhouse, which is a distance from the range. It’s a rustic place with 3 separate bunk rooms, holding six beds in each. (Remember, military). It featured a large stone fireplace in the center and meals were served on the lower level. Lodging and some meals are part of the package should you choose so when you schedule. Bill taught the class himself and ushered us into his world of reactive shooting. He demonstrated to us how long it takes for the brain to send the signal to your extremities to fire the shot. Using a timer, we were to tap the receiver when the buzzer sounded. He quickly established that it takes about a half-second for us to pull the trigger once our mind sends the command. We tested the concept and found it solid. There were some small deviations from person to person, but that half-second was for the quickest. Interesting: if someone is pointing a gun at you, it takes them a half-second to pull the trigger when you move. His entire curriculum is built on teaching you to shoot at the limit of human reaction speed. That’s a pretty high standard. Bill sends you a copy of his book when you set your class date. It covers his concepts in detail. I would advise you to read it before you go. Many students don’t, thinking this is a class where the instructor holds your hand.
As an instructor, I always worked on the principle of showing a shooter a technique. Letting them practice the technique a little, then giving them drills to perfect at a later date. The magic happens over time, in my experience. At Rogers that is not the case. You work on getting better right then and there, the magic happens there. By running the courses, your mind will learn the appropriate sight picture for a given distance, the proper follow through and it’s all happening at the limits of human processing speed. Hence, the term "Reactive Shooting."
The test is comprised of nine drills and you shoot them at least once a day for a score, you qualify at your highest score. Training is focused around these tests. You may shoot an actual test, or a portion of a test, or a test with different variables (Like with an ammo can in your strong hand, shooting weak hand only.) But it’s the pace that is the killer. We ran our first test at day’s end on Monday. A funny thing happened the following morning. Many students disappeared during the night, we came up missing four in my class. They packed their bags and slithered away in the darkness. Like I said it’s a humbling experience a lot of people’s egos can’t handle it. I asked Bill if that was common. “Oh yeah,” he told me. “This is pretty good, we usually lose a lot more. I’ve had whole police units leave in the middle of the night.” the man "himself" would say with a chuckle. You have to go to this school with the mindset of checking your ego at home, you go to learn.
Bill’s been running this school for forty years and there has never been a drop in the standards. That’s what sets the Rogers Shooting School apart. You test to a standard against human limitations. As I said, it’s unforgiving. I think that most people overstate their abilities. There is a basic course, and unless you’re really familiar with this type of shooting or a world-class shooter, you should start there with the basics.
The instructors took our first score on Monday and created a shooting order. The best score went to lane 1, the second, lane 2 and so on. When they got past lane 8, they placed the 9th highest back on lane 1 and kept going. This gave each squad a strong, middle and weak shooter. It was done that way to distribute the knowledge evenly through the squads. They reshuffled every day after testing. We continued to train through Wednesday at a feverish pace testing at the end of each day. Putting thousands of rounds downrange. My hands and elbows hurt and my thumb was torn from loading magazines all day. I was tired of shooting at the end of the day, which was new for me.
Bill maintains a group of world-class instructors to help him teach his method of reactive shooting. These are real, been there done that men, top-level military and law enforcement guys. How do you know if there’s a Seal in the room? Give it a minute, he’ll tell you and help you improve each day. They’re there to advise you and they do. The instructors demonstrate each course of fire and test prior to turning you lose. Proving they are masters of their craft and keeping us moving in the right direction. By the time Wednesday had passed, we had shot the test three times. Every person in my class had improved their score, some significantly.
I wasn’t used to this. To see the students, improve so much, in such a short period of time. I’d always worked on teaching fundamentals and practice regimens. Improvement always took time. But not at Rogers, the students were making big gains every day. The test proved a litmus test of ability and those abilities were improving at a rapid rate.
I’ll make a confession here. My wife went to the school a year or so ahead of me. She was a solid shooter. As a measuring stick, she’d been in B-Class USPSA for a decade. Accurate, rarely scoring a miss, but I could never get her to speed up. For fifteen years I had tried. She came back from Rogers with a new pace. Bill had sped her up in five days. She was shooting the best I had ever seen her shoot. We are well past our competition days so to speak. I wish I had sent her many years ago. I’ve never seen a school that produces such large gains in such a short time. If you go to this school you will not regret it, you will go home a better shooter, not just for competition but for real life. Learning to trust what you see, and know you can make the shot is a hard skill to achieve. And it may be a skill that could save your life or your loved ones someday. This school has been a best-kept secret by elite professionals, if you have any questions let me know. If you've been, share your story with us.
To see more about Bill check out this article in RECOIL Magazine
It has been an honor and a privilege to work with Bill, he is a true legend, and one of the best men you will ever meet.