I want to preface this article with two things. First, I have a bit of bias in favor of Langdon Tactical Technology, I’m a huge fan of the guns and gunsmithing they provide and almost exclusively shoot handguns with the LTT logo. I’m not paid to or anything fancy like that. There is no arrangement between LTT, SU, me, or anything else, I simply really enjoy the work they put out and support that relationship by sending them money in exchange for product. Secondly, LTT provides far more than shooting products. LTT Discover is perhaps the most in depth and professionally produced collection of content for shooters of all skill levels available FOR FREE. They also have a training section on their YouTube page with about 30 videos dedicated to in class drills and the knowledge shared FOR FREE. I’d strongly encourage anyone that wants a glimpse of what it’s like learning from Ernest to check out those videos HERE. I’d even be happier if you skipped this article and simply watched the videos there, they are great quality and will give you a far more detailed understanding of the class and teach you far more effectively than just my analysis of the class. What I’m writing here is to simply share my experiences learning with Ernest, it’s far more beneficial to anyone reading to skip this and go watch those videos and learn.
It’s been about two months since I took the class and at least a month since I wrote the intro. There are loads of After Action Reports (AAR) from training classes, and I’m sure you could find quite a few already written on Langdon’s past classes, so if there’s already a bunch written why add to the redundancy? This stumped me for awhile and essentially halted any progress on writing further about the class, well that and having three chaos units that make it their mission to to interrupt any productivity. Often AAR’s end up being a detailed list of drills from the class with one or two nuggets learned from the class. If my kids already make writing time such a rare commodity, why spend it only adding to the noise, especially when those training videos they provide from class are far more valuable. I finally realized the best thing to do is not write about what the class is and instead write about what it is not, with the Langdon Tactical name there’s already a few misconceptions I’m sure I could negate for the reader.
Every drill Ernest requires the class to perform he demos for us first. Someone can explain a drill to you and you’ll understand most of it, but seeing it performed after it is explained is far more valuable. If your teacher isn’t demoing in front of the class that is a tremendous red flag.
The first misconception is probably the FAST drill and how heavily students tend to focus on earning that coin. The drill was developed by the late Todd Lewis Green and the details of the drill can be found HERE. There’s somewhere around 2 dozen coin holders out there as of this writing and it tends to be one of the most sought after class achievements in the training community. That being said, it doesn’t come anywhere near to being Ernest’s focus for the class. The test is the end result and Ernest’s focus is on the shooting/learning process. There’s a distinct difference, to cut it simply when you only look to an end result you can sometimes ignore the important steps it takes to get to the end. Focusing on the process means dialing in on what work you need to do and accepting the end goal is only the result from a consistent focus on building each fundamental step continuously.
Reload practice is always fun, but sometimes reloading for the sake of the gram loses any practical value. There is none of that in class. Multiple shots on small targets and following up with another string on the same target after the reload to ensure no one can just throw rounds to sacrifice everything for a fast reload. Here I think the target I was a 2 or 3″ circle and having Ernest shoot right next to you always elevates the drill to another level.
With the amount of hype and prestige around the FAST Test one could assume that it’s a heavy focus for the class, and that honestly does a disservice to the actual learning environment of the class. I’m not sure how the schedule goes for every class, for my class we conducted the FAST Test roughly midmorning of day 2. We had already covered quite a bit the previous day, with class starting around 9AM and going a little past 9PM, and honestly that low light portion was surprisingly far more valuable, interesting, and fun than the FAST portion. That’s not just because I failed to earn the coin, but we can get to the night portion later.
Ernest demos the FAST at two different speeds, a coin run (4.99s or less) and here he demos it fast enough for a patch run (7s). The difference in speed is very evident and it’s great to see the variance in speed first hand before the class has their chance to attempt.
Ernest starts the second morning out with some fundamental warm ups and moves on to discussing reloads, their practicality, and why it makes sense to be proficient at them no matter what your shooting purpose. Then before the test he discusses positive mental management, with a focus on “With Winning in Mind,” by Lanny Bassham, an Olympic Gold Medalist. Those familiar with the Podfather Steve Anderson will be familiar with his work, and I’d encourage anyone reading this to check the book out for themselves. A brief synopsis of the discussion is Bassham’s focus not on the things he did that kept him from winning Gold in previous years, but focusing on what he did right to perform well. Being consistently positive with your self image in practice and performing is extremely beneficial. Constant negativity and thinking only of your failures can lead to discouragement and repeating those mistakes, whereas a positive outlook and focusing on what was done well can lead to higher levels of performance. There is more to the discussion, but I was thrilled that it was included in the curriculum and I couldn’t think of a better time during the two days for it to be introduced than that. The FAST is tough and nailing it consistently to earn the coin is quite challenging. Having this discussion before the test gives students a better method for handling any poor results from the test and gives them the opportunity to focus instead on a positive outlook and already starts them on the path to a more successful result.
Not the FAST attempt I wanted, but the one I got for focusing on the result instead of the process. What I appreciated about this was Ernest understood what my capabilities were and that this was a mistake that I understood immediately. Rather than explain to me what had gone wrong he simply made light of it knowing I was aware of what I needed to do and we moved on.
Once the test starts it begins and ends quite quickly. Ernest simply goes down the line letting each individual shooter have their attempt before moving onto the next. If they make the required 4.99 time clean they have 2 more attempts, if the time isn’t reached he may offer a word or two of advice, maybe congratulations for earning a time worthy of a patch but not a coin, and then moves on to the next. This minimizes the amount of down time for the rest of the class and keeps things from feeling bogged down or boring. I was surprised but thankful that such an individual challenge was handled in such a short time so the class could then move on to another topic.
The class is not is a focus on one specific brand of gun or one action type, specifically Beretta and the 92. While the LTT name is nearly synonymous with Beretta 92’s and I credit LTT largely for making the 92 and double-singles mainstream again, Ernest does not demonstrate only with a DA/SA or only preach about them being the only choice. Instead he discusses how to make the most out of whatever action type you choose and utilizing that type in the best way possible. While he will probably always be synonymous with shooting 92’s I much prefer learning from someone that is heavily involved with various action types. In the striker fired world we live in today it’s often the only thing covered and the nuances of the other action types are sometimes ignored.
A lot of topics discussed won’t be fully covered here, go to the training videos on their YouTube/website and learn more To my surprise the most interesting, helpful, and fun portion of the class was the night shoot. I know night vision and lasers are all the rage right now, but the fact is for most people that’s not going to be realistic or practical, and even for those with the budget, there’s a very limited niche use for it that falls outside of being an every day armed civilian. The night portion covered hand held lights, different holding techniques, lighting scenarios, and the difference between shooting with a handheld vs. a weapon-mounted light.
A lot of this is covered in the videos, but seeing the different lighting scenarios on a target firsthand and then getting to engage them with what I actually use and carry, that was pretty gnarly. It’s not a hose fest, a few strings and then the lighting is changed and Ernest discusses the lighting situation before a few more strings. Also the large variety of lights he brings and lets the class see the difference was pretty enlightening. I can’t afford to buy several thousand dollars worth of different lights and find what I want or will work the best for me, but the demonstrations he did really helped me narrow down what I may look to next. The weapon mounted light, while allowing for a far more consistent grip on the gun, did reveal itself to be something most hadn’t practiced with. Manipulating the light levers and reestablishing a solid grip did appear to be something most with a WML hadn’t practiced. I think we may take for granted that a WML still requires practice to gain proficiency with, the fact that you can only get one hand on the gun with a handheld often leads to more practice with those techniques and the WML practice is ignored.
The primary realization/confirmation for me was that with modern technology there is absolutely no reason to not have some sort of light source on you. Whether it’s the newest light with every candela and lumen known to man or a tiny Streamlight micro stream, they both have a use and are far more valuable than no light at all. Seriously, the Streamlights are tiny and offer you several hundred lumens and a few thousand candela for around the cost of a box of ammo, you have no excuse not to have a light source when they can be carried so easily.
The experience of the class isn’t something I can capture with mere words in an article. The words, along with some video and browsing the dozens of training videos they have from previous classes may help, but class is honestly an event all it’s own. Shooting with Ernest was a profoundly fun and learning experience. Shooting USPSA I have seen shooters at his level and better, and it’s always inspiring to see good shooters perform and know that I can get to their level myself with intelligently applied effort. Ernest however is the epitome of what IDPA is supposed to be, an extremely capable shooter that performs at the limit of human reaction time without allowing a loss in accuracy. That being said this is not a competition focused class, it is a great blend of performance based drills with a realistic explanation of the benefits for more than just a competition shooter.
One of my closest friends running one of Ernest’s movement drills. Movement on it’s own is a challenge while shooting, needing to be aware of and navigate obstacles is just another layer added to the challenge. Dave shows how years of hockey pay off in giving him an almost dancer’s grace in movement. Confounds me every time we shoot together.
Would I take this class again? Well I’m hoping to make the next one they have in the area next year, so I’d say yes. If I could go back the only thing I would change would be to take this class years ago. I still learned more than I thought I would have, but if I had managed to make an LTT class a few years ago I would have shaved YEARS off my learning curve. Classes aren’t cheap, but the price you pay an accomplished teacher to save you years of struggle on your own, can you really put a price on that?
Ben Johnson spent six years as a USMC Machine Gunner. He deployed three times to Afghanistan as a gunner, team leader, and section leader and left the Marines in 2015. After leaving the Marines he attended college and earned his Bachelors in Business Administration in 2019. He is currently raising his three small sons with his wife, while continuing to learn as much as he can about firearms, and pass that knowledge on. He also dryfires entirely too much in his basement.