Travis Haley and Chris Costa of Magpul Industries are well known for their instructional classes, DVDs and impressive military backgrounds. So, how do these revered tactical trainers start off their high speed classes? Here is a review of one of their classes.

Magpul Dynamics Art of the Dynamic Handgun

Class review originally posted on

The first day started off warm and damp; it had rained pretty steadily for several days prior to our arrival, but the range was in remarkably good condition. After we turned in the necessary paperwork and got our gear staged, Travis began the course by introducing himself and Kerry, and giving a brief overview of Magpul Dynamics’ guiding principles. We then reviewed the four basic rules of firearm safety, and outlined the plan we would implement in the event of a medical emergency.


From there, Travis explained how the 7 fundamentals of handgun shooting could be condensed into three core groups (sight alignment/sight picture, trigger control, and grip), and demonstrated that you could function for a time with only two of those groups intact, and still get effective hits. Then it was our turn to start shooting – first with single shots at close range, trying to achieve perfect one-hole groups, then moving back to 5, 10, 15 and 25 yards to see how our “cone of deviation” opened up.


After that, we conducted “ball and dummy” drills, where the student would turn his back while his gun was loaded by his partner. Then, not knowing whether or not there was a round in the chamber, the student would fire. The partner would watch the student for any signs of trigger slapping, recoil anticipation or other problems, upon which the student would have to do 10 perfect dry-fire shots. After each student had gotten 10 rounds on target, he and his partner would switch roles. The morning concluded with a 10-round rapid-fire string from 25 yards, trying to keep all shots in the highlighted 8″ center-mass circle on the Magpul target.


The afternoon began with some draw and fire exercises. Magpul Dynamics does not break the drawstroke down into positions or steps as many other schools do; they emphasize economy of motion, combined with moving quickly where you need to and slowing down where you need to. “Quick to the gun, sure of your grip; quick to the threat, sure of your shot” is their pistol mantra. We spent some time firing singles and pairs from the holster on command, then rolled right into Magpul’s signature Balance of Speed and Accuracy drill, or BSA. The BSA drill consists of drawing and firing two rounds in two seconds from 3, 7, 10, 15 and 25 yards, keeping all shots inside the 8″ center-mass circle on the Magpul target (if range conditions allow, additional stages include 2 rounds kneeling from 35 yards in 4 seconds, and a single head shot from 50 yards in 4 seconds). After the BSA drill, we practiced “instinctive” or target-focused shooting from 5 to 25 yards, with each student determining at what distance he had to transition from target focus to sight focus in order to make accurate hits (for me it was about 15 yards).


We ended the day by covering the 4 types of handgun malfunctions – failure to feed, failure to eject (stovepipe), failure to battery (slide does not return all the way forward), and double feed – and the procedures to address each. Magpul Dynamics does not teach immediate and remedial action; instead, they want their students to be problem solvers, identifying the malfunction first, then taking the appropriate corrective action. We were taught that a “click” instead of a “bang” indicates a failure to feed, which should be addressed with the usual Tap-Rack-Bang (or Tap-Rack-Assess, as the case may be). A mushy or “dead” trigger pull indicates a different problem, in which case you first raise the muzzle slightly and look at two key index points (first the ejection port, then if necessary the rear of the slide) to identify the problem. If you see a stovepiped case, use the support hand (“reaction hand” in Magpul’s terminology) to “wipe” it clear. If you see a double-feed, lock the slide to the rear, strip the magazine, work the action and reload the gun with a new mag. If nothing is seen in the ejection port, check the rear of the slide. If it is out of battery, smack it with your support hand to get it the rest of the way home.


Travis admitted this diagnostic approach was somewhat controversial and was not well suited for training to the lowest common denominator (think military recruits, police forces and other large groups with limited training time/budgets), but ideal for special forces, dedicated armed citizens, and other “one percenters” for whom maximum performance and tactical effectiveness was a priority.


Day Two was again sunny and hot, and began with 10-round slow-fire strings at 25 yards to get us warmed up, before we ran through the BSA template again, this time firing 5 strings from each distance. Those students who the instructors judged to be performing well were asked to push themselves by firing 3 or even 4 rounds per string instead of the usual two.


After the BSAs, it was on to positional shooting, starting with dynamic kneeling. The instructors emphasized that this was a “hasty” technique that was quick to get into and out of, and thus did not involve sitting back on the weapon-side leg or bracing the reaction-side elbow against the raised knee for additional stability. Instead, the shooter simply drops straight down into a squat, letting the weapon-side knee hit the ground. After shooting from kneeling at 5 and 15 yards, we progressed into Urban Prone, dropping quickly into position (either using our support hand to break our fall, or going down on our leg, thigh, hip and side in a kind of modified parachute landing fall) while drawing the gun, then engaged targets once on the ground. Magpul’s version of the Urban Prone is easy to get into on either the left or right side and is relatively stable (kicking the top leg forward helps keep the upper body properly aligned), but I had some issues getting out of it cleanly.


After lunch, we started going mobile. First, we practiced turns to the left, right and rear (180°). These weren’t the deliberate, “by the numbers” dance-lesson-like turns that other schools teach; the instructors said that in their experience, one naturally and quickly turns toward a perceived threat, so that’s what we did. That led to moving forward, backward, left or right off the line of attack prior to drawing and shooting, then to movement around others, where our fellow students would stand at about the 7 yard line and we would have to move around him to the left or right, or move in front of him (as if shielding him with our body) before drawing and engaging targets. We then covered moving to shoot (running from the 25 to the 3 yard line, then drawing and engaging with 5 rounds standing, 5 kneeling, 5 standing, before running back to the 25 yard line and engaging again) and shooting while moving (forward and backward from 3 to 25 yards, firing on a threat command).


The last course of fire was a multiple-position barricade run featuring multiple steel targets. The first barricade was vertical, and the student had to engage targets to the left and right from both the standing and kneeling positions. The second barricade was horizontal, and the student had to engage targets over the top, from high and low squat positions. The third barricade was also horizontal, but it required the student to engage targets through a port in the bottom using the Urban Prone position, from his left and right side.