In this edition, we’d like to introduce members to Wes Lagomarsino, a Sacramento-area firearms instructor whom we met 11 years ago in large part because we shared a mentor, Network Advisory Board member Massad Ayoob. Wes has been telling armed citizens in Northern California about the Network ever since. Recently we enjoyed chatting about his classes. For those who prefer streaming video, there’s a lengthier version of our visit at https://youtu.be/sGbfuV5Oxxc or enjoy this shorter written conversation with him. We started our visit with Wes by asking a little about his background and what led him to where he is today.
Lagomarsino: It probably began when I was a victim of a violent crime. My grandfather and I were held hostage in a robbery at our store.
When the bad guys left us alone for a minute, I was able to cut the duct tape off with a knife I had in my back pocket and get out the back door, leaving the bad guys to the police, who surrounded the building, caught and prosecuted them. The bad guys were there to execute me as a gang initiation and after the trial, that gang “put the green light on me,” meaning they hunted me.
As a result, I was sold on martial arts and weapons for self defense. I joined law enforcement and worked for eight years with the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department. I left there on great terms to go into Federal law enforcement, but my position got cut when Obama took office. A friend, a real smart man who I really respect, called me, and said, “The Secret Service was picking you up because of your weapons and tactics experience and all the classes you’ve taken. Why don’t you teach privately?”
Fourteen years later, here I am. I got into the industry right when concealed carry in the Sacramento area was starting. I started Lagomarsino’s Firearms Institute in July of 2009, just on a whim, but as a result, I’ve gotten to train with some of the best instructors in the world.
eJournal: What is your focus as an instructor?
Lagomarsino: I break classes into safe gun manipulations, then shooting fundamentals and after that, dynamics like movement, awkward shooting positions and such. We need to be able to complete tasks without having to put conscious thought into it, which we do by breaking down and memorizing smaller chunks.
Starting with gun safety, I make sure people understand muzzle direction and finger placement, timing to and from the trigger and can manipulate a gun – racking the slide and putting magazines in and out – pointing in the right direction and with their fingers in the right place. I work in a lot of repetitions prior to advancing people to shooting fundamentals, which hinders my business a bit. People want to go straight to dynamics and stack up like SWAT dudes. Although I’m Italian not Japanese, I’m kind of like The Karate Kid’s Mr. Miyagi in that respect, “Wax on, wax off” and then I tell them to go home and do the repetitions.
I do daily repetitions of the timing of finger to the trigger and finger off the trigger. I love doing reps because I know that’s how to be able to perform during a fight or a competition. Once you have memorized steps to the subconscious, they’re easy. You’re going to need to do 10,000 repetitions over a six-month period preferably with no days off in between the sleep cycles – about 60 reps a day will get you there.
eJournal: You mentioned so many interesting shooting components, but for today, we should pick just one. Let’s explore the human eye using pistol sights.
Lagomarsino: With iron sights, you align the front sight compared to the inside corners of the rear sight and then align the sight picture into the center of the target. Lining up the top edges of the front sight or the corners of the top is the most important thing. In my opinion, that’s the easy part. When we move the trigger and the gun goes off, the sights go extremely blurry but if you’re gripping really well, they don’t move much and will probably realign. What are your eyes supposed to do post-detonation and during the detonation? First of all, we have got to avoid blinking and we should even back up maybe another step into keeping one eye or both eyes open when you’re shooting. So let me do that first.
eJournal: Much conflicting advice has been given about both eyes open.
Lagomarsino: It is not as simple as always just keeping both eyes open. I hear that a lot and I disagree. When you have both eyes open and looking at your sights, your dominant eye is aligned with the rear sight, the front sight, and the target. If your other eye is open, you’re going to have double vision that looks like a superimposed target off to one side or so far apart that they separate instead of overlap. Unless you’re really, really experienced and you’ve done thousands and thousands of reps, I don’t think that you should be challenging your brain to differentiate one from the other during a fight. When in doubt, squint an eye!
Treating my range as a laboratory, I get experience keeping one eye open versus keeping both eyes open. Ten yards for body shots is about where people start to need to squint an eye on an 8-inch target. Squint an eye for difficult targets; for easy targets, keep both eyes open. It doesn’t take that long and usually the eye will squint while the gun is extending, so there’s no delay unless your timing is bad.
eJournal: After instruction in correct technique, timing can be polished during practice – what you’ve been calling “reps.” What other refinements for using pistol sights do you teach?
Lagomarsino: How to avoid blinking! If there’s an explosion in your hand 20 inches in front of your face, your brain says, “Danger!” and you want to blink. I teach flexing the muscles around the eye to where it can’t blink. It is the same thing we do when we catch a baseball. It looks like a scowl.
Next, we should be tracking the front sight in relation to the rear. Is it going up and right or up and left? Is it dipping right before the shot? After the shot, where is it recovering to? Most right-handed shooters do not contract up their right triceps and deltoid muscles very hard when they shoot, so their gun tracks up and right when they fire. You fix that by flexing those muscles a little harder and then you’ll watch your gun go straight up, straight down.
When you practice and do reps, extend the gun out in front of your face and scowl. Do your reps and make sure that you flex those muscles on a regular basis.
eJournal: How does that apply to multiple shots?
Lagomarsino: When we’re tracking the sights, that data the eye gathers tells us when to shoot the next shot, especially for rapid fire or shooting a volley of shots. Tracking the sights also tells us what muscles are contracted correctly or incorrectly. You can fix that during multiple shots if you messed up and didn’t flex the muscles right.
After the shot, make sure that you realign the sights and focus on them again. You should not shift your eyes from the sights over to the target to see your hits and then back to the sights. What a waste of time that is! Go look at your hits after you’re done with the volley, after you bring the gun back to the ready position. That’s a nemesis that I still work on regularly when I’m shooting bullseye. My mantra is grip, sights, trigger, and then off trigger, off sights, off grip in that order. When I’m doing a drill, I’m telling myself, out loud, “Track the sights, track the sights, track the sights,” so even if I get other fundamentals wrong, as long as I track the sights during recoil, I know what I need to do. Maybe I flinched and the sights dipped, so by tracking the sight, I see what I need to practice and do to develop good habits.
If you do your reps, you’re going to end up being able to piece together all the little pieces that are memorized to the subconscious so that you won’t have to think through each step when you have to perform.
eJournal: How do you respond to nay-sayers who say you can’t watch your sights in a fight?
Lagomarsino: I hear that nonsense from people that don’t shoot very often. They’ll say that they got into a shooting and say, “I didn’t look at my sights.” I have to ask, how often do you put a gun in front of your face? Guys like Massad Ayoob, Mike Seeklander or even myself, put a gun in front of our faces every day and I do dry practice three to five days a week. The rest of the time, I’m out on the range discharging guns, so, of course I’m going to put the gun in front of my face and look at the sights, regardless of the level of danger.
When IPSC shooter BJ Baldwin and his girlfriend were attacked, how did he make 10 of 10 effective hits from 20 yards when he’d never been in a fight before? It was because he’s a master level USPSA shooter and he shoots about 50,000 rounds a year, same as me. He puts the gun up in front of his face every day. He doesn’t know how not to look at the sights.
eJournal: Let’s take a minute to talk about the classes you teach. How do you get people started right?
Lagomarsino: I teach all-day classes. The first covers basic fundamentals, and the next is the accuracy development class. From there, I have classes covering movement, one handed shooting, awkward shooting positions and more. They’re at https://www.lfiguns.com/courses along with my phone number and email. I do have Facebook and Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/p/Cy7c8A2LUVt/ and https://www.facebook.com/lfiguns but I don’t really answer questions there. I’m a people person! I’d rather people call me. I might give a lesson right there on the phone because I want the good guy to win if ever attacked. That’s my passion.
eJournal: Call Wes at 209-401-0907, and readers, this is a guy you should turn to for training, both with him, as well as when he hosts our Advisory Board member Massad Ayoob, or other big-name instructors like Mike Seeklander, or go to Wes for reciprocal carry permits from NV or AZ or UT. What else should we know about your classes, Wes?
Lagomarsino: The classes are really small right now. That’s a huge benefit because I spend a lot of one-on-one time and I don’t send you home early just because the class is small. I’m the guy who’s always saying, “As long as you want to stay, I’m out here. We’ll stay out here ‘til midnight.” We can shoot in the dark at my range, too. It is really fun. I’m just 20-30 minutes south of Sacramento, off of the 99 corridor.
eJournal: Members, you can’t beat coaching from an instructor with such a love of the subject matter! Thank you, Wes, for being there for our CA readers’ education, training, and practice.