First Thoughts on Victory First: Defensive Handgun Course

Victory First Defense Handgun Level 1. Photo by Jerry Sarkody of Rat Mountain Design

Dave Reeder and I were lucky enough to attend the very-first, or “plankowners,” pistol course offered by Victory First, owned and operated by Matt Jacques, a former Marine with an extensive law-enforcement background.

I have very little experience with concealed carry, while it’s second nature to Dave. Despite our varied backgrounds, both of us agreed that “Defensive Handgun Level I” is an extremely useful course for anybody who takes on the huge responsibility of carrying a loaded pistol everyday. The  two-day course was conducted Nov. 3-4 at the North Point training center range in rural Virginia. Jacques and his assistant, Michael Dale, taught the course, focusing on the techniques and tactics necessary for engaging threats from a concealed-carry perspective. Both of these guys come from an extraordinary background in specialized firearms instruction (with particular emphasis on a threat awareness and engagement from a low profile and/or concealed carry shooter set-up). Raven Concealment Systems and F3 Tactical sponsored the course.

There are a lot of tactical shooting courses out there, but many of them tend to focus on shooting carbine or pistol while decked out in either full or partial battle rattle — padded war belts, body armor, helmets, drop rigs and MultiCam clothing.

The course began with a couple of hours of classroom instruction — I know it sounds boring, but it wasn’t like that. Jacques spent a

Matt Jacques of Victory First discusses holster selection in Defensive Handgun Level 1. Photo by Jerry Sarkody of Rat Mountain Design.

good deal of time talking about pistol and holster selection. He covered the pros and cons of leather vs. Kydex and the dynamics of appendix carry vs. 3 o’clock and 4 o’clock carry positions.. He covered gun belts, everyday-carry bags, lights, lasers and optics.

“Gear is a life investment. Don’t let anybody tell you different,” Jacques said, describing how every needs to spend time experimenting to find what works for them.

You can find a lot of advice trolling the blogs and forums, but it’s hard to be sure about who is giving the advice. Jacques doesn’t talk a lot about his experience, but he made enough references to past counter-drug operations and what he’s seen or learned from the aftermath messy gunfights to inspire the class’s confidence.

I also liked that Jacques wasn’t afraid to let class discussions wander a bit to ponder topics such as how to handle being pulled over by police when you are carrying concealed to the importance of shouting warnings before you use deadly force in public.

But classroom was only a small portion of the course. The range atmosphere was disciplined without being uptight. In other words — big-boy rules. The drills had the right combination of challenging and fun. And Jacques and Dale provided plenty of one-on-one instruction to each student.

Kit Up! will be doing other posts on the course in the coming days, so please stay tuned. Now here are Dave Reeder’s initial thoughts on Victory First.




“Cover Garment is a bitch.”  Matt Jacques.

Like Matt, I enjoyed the course. More importantly, I learned a lot. Carrying, presenting and engaging with a weapon from a concealed position is a far more complex endeavor than can be conveyed by the acronym CCW or saying “concealed carry”. I believe this is another somber example of most of us not knowing how much we don’t know. Calling Defensive Handgun I a CCW class is about as accurate as saying as true sniper course is just ‘shooting through a scope for a couple days’. I think one of the real strengths of this organization will be its ability to work with students of very disparate backgrounds and skill level efficiently and to keep the class functionally at the same level. Though there were students of every skill level, from myself on the low end to some very accomplished shooters on the high end, and despite a greater need for attention and focus on some students’ part, the class never lagged and no one was held back (or pushed forward) by the students around them.

Those of you who have attended courses where that occurred will understand how much of a really Good Thing that is.

A student engages a close threat during Victory First Defensive Handgun Level 1. Photo by Jerry Sarkody of Rat Mountain Design.

Matt Jacques and Michael Dale crammed a lot of information into two too-short days, beginning with a lecture-discussion session the first morning. Judging from the response of the majority of students, I can say with confidence it was not only not what they were expecting, it was bringing considerations to light that never would have occurred to them otherwise. From understanding the dynamics of an armed encounter at ‘bad breath range’ to suggestions on how to deal with witness and responding law enforcement, the lecture gave everyone a lot to think about. I’ll be discussing some of those in more detail over the next couple of articles.

Cover Garment is a bitch.

As for shooting content, some of it I’d seen before, some was entirely new to me and all of it was educational (if not humbling). We utilized a number of different drills to hone shooting skills, but all within the context of having to present the weapon (and reload it) while negotiating the difficulties presented by different cover garments and concealment-specific hindrances. In addition to what might seem to be some counter-intuitive elements of that, some things I’d assumed would be problematic were much more so than I’d dreamed. Other things came more easily than I anticipated. A couple of things Matt Jacques taught me, simple though they were, were absolutely worth the price of admission all by themselves.

Like Matt, I’m going to go into more detail over the next few days, but overall this course is definitely worth attending. Even experienced shooters – perhaps particularly experienced shooters – will definitely find it worth both the time and the $400 course fee. There are several “celebrity shooting instructors” out there, if you will pardon the term. Most of us can name them all. Having seen Victory First in action now I’m pretty sure you’ll be adding the name Matt Jacques to that list. Hopefully we’ll be seeing more of Michael too.

More to follow.

Did I mention ‘Cover garment is a bitch’?

About the Author

Matthew Cox
Matthew Cox is a reporter at He can be reached at
  • uncle phred

    A few thoughts after many years of carrying concealed as a federal agent, dressed down:

    I took as much care in selecting, modifying, tailoring and even designing my ‘cover garments’ as I did in making my other choices (belts, holsters and allowable weapons modifications).

    The ‘skels’ (a term from my years in NY) were always very quick to pick up on fads and trends. They were immediately on to vests and fanny packs- and Ray Charles could have seen the primary purpose of a light jacket on warm days.

    Hawaiian shirts are great on hot days, but skip the white undershirts (and Ray-Bans if you’re being really serious about this).

    From spending so much time in vehicles and/or sitting in restaurants, I came to favor cross-draw options. For my build, IWB holsters, just forward of the hip, were quick and comfortable for long periods of time.

    Finally, the instructor part of me has to mention that using ‘alternative’ holsters requires very careful and deliberate training exercises…

    • Uncle Phred, you make some great points. I’ve carried concealed/off duty for many years and this class was a stark reminder that we so often don’t know just how much we don’t know. I’ll be addressing some of the very things you mentioned in follow up articles (as will Matt). Thanks for commenting, and regarding your ‘alternative holster’ comment: AMEN. Military or LE, nothing quite says stupid like throwing on a should holster for convenience or comfort and without ever taking it to the range.

  • Lance

    Sounds fun and educational Matt can you pay for all of your readers here. LOL!

  • Stew

    Is anyone aware of a good CCW course in Colorado?

  • mka

    David,any relation to Gary?

    • I don’t think so…I can ask the old man, he is putting together a family tree. Most of my family are in Missouri, but I’m sure there are others out there…hopefully not lost in the cold wilds of the Northern Tier.

  • 40MikeMike

    Really good to see some folks incorporating how to respond to the charging blue cavalry.

  • HMCLiz

    Loved the article! Now if only Illinois would get concealed carry. Some FB pages for women who love guns:… and