I wrote this review after being a paid subscriber for two months and watching through (while taking notes) Pistol 1,2,3, Rifle 1 & 2, “Projecting The Cut”, and I also watched “Unbreakable Mind”. I only sampled the other shows that I will mention here. If I was more casual in my viewing I certainly could have covered more ground but except for “Unbreakable Mind” I was always watching while taking notes and with full attention.
The quick takeaway is that it was certainly worth two months’ subscription to get the virtual training I did — with some caveats. These are the same caveats that always accompany all self-paced, independent, virtual, or self-taught training. WPSN notes that this virtual training is only supplemental. It’s not as bad as say grappling, which you straight up cannot teach yourself, but there are limitations. You can learn a lot of what they offer…but not everything. The price at the time of writing was $10 dollars a month or $90 for a year.
I found WPSN on youtube via Kyle Lamb of Viking Tactics and Rory Miller who is an excellent writer on force, legal self-defense, and martial arts. I really respect Kyle Lamb as a trainer (probably my number one training wish would be to take a class of his) and if he takes someone seriously I take them seriously. Watching Rory Miller’s interview with WPSN on youtube had a similar impact on me. I generally felt like I would not mesh personality-wise with John Lovell, but people that I take seriously took him seriously. So I started looking at his content. His video “#1 Tip to Keep from Missing” was just such an excellent example and identifies a weakness in my own marksmanship so well that I started looking deeper. His video where he came out against Abortion as a matter of principle convinced me that philosophically we are in accord and that matters a lot. So I spent the money to take a look at his virtual training network.
What is it?
It’s a streaming service/virtual training platform. It’s edging into forum territory but that is relatively new territory and very young. They are investing serious money into producing content that is virtual training that effectively lets you either preview or review a course that you can take in reality. They are also doing some almost television shows, mainly humorous, about themselves. The shows may or may not be your cup of tea but the training is generally of high quality.
The secondary part of it is creating a place where conservative voices can exist without the whims of “big tech”. So in addition to the content from WPSN they also host several popular youtube channels through their own video streaming service, it’s not simply embedding the youtube player. So channels like “Good Patriot” and “Garand Thumb” and “Kentucky Ballistics” are hosted and you can watch them here. I have no idea what the under-the-hood deal is. It costs money to provide a streaming service but a service with no content is a dead-end so it’s fair to assume there is some sort of business arrangement beneath it. There are also instances of the WPSN putting extended videos that they know will run afoul of youtube guidelines or culture on their own streaming service. For you, it may be a way to watch (and support in some way) some youtube content you enjoy without letting Alphabet add that to your profile. Don’t go crazy thinking it’s private but it’s less easily added to whatever profile Silicon Valley has on you.
In this dual curation and creation streaming service they try to hew to a good ethos that will be familiar to many readers of the survival blog. You’ll hear John say a lot that “we are loving protectors” and that seems a mantra he repeats in good faith. For him, his faith as a Christian is a cornerstone of it that it comes up not infrequently but in various places he has stated that he cares more about agreement with the ethos than the specifics of religious dogma. If you love your fellow man and want to help protect them from the threats the innocent face, you will find more respect and welcome than anything else here.
1. An emphasis on realism without winding up in fantasyland.
This is something that is across instructors. John Lovell constantly repeated that “every tactic and technique must be tested and vetted with force on force training”. The instructors are looking at what they can learn from shooting competitors but are looking to adapt rather than transplant. They are not teaching you some secret “too deadly to spar” technique which would alert your Bovine Scat detector but they are concerned with how something that wins shooting competitions could cost you your life in a conflict.
John gives options and reasons, explains what tradeoffs he sees, and then leaves it to you. He explains what he is trying to accomplish with his methods and the shortcomings he sees in other methods but stays focused on “does it work?”. If an alternate method works, go ahead. A big example is which knee is up when you are using cover from a kneeling position, he takes no position because it depends how bad your knees are, he wants you to know the pros and cons and emphasizes the goals (quickly move out of cover to engage the threat, show a minimum of target to the threat, have stability, bear in mind the enemy may move).
2. Teaching the “fighting” part of gun fighting
This is his focus. The core element of a gunfight in his view is the “fighting” part. He’s not teaching marksmanship he and his team are trying to give their trainees a fighting chance if they have to use force to defend themselves. So even the beginning stances are not target stances but stances that you up to fight with “good enough” accuracy. In Pistol 2 he introduces light force on force training to keep students from being amazing on a flat range and failing in a deadly situation. It’s eye-opening what a little pressure will do.
What this means for the curriculum is that his stances, his transitions between positions, his discussion of reloading, his movement, use of cover is all based around what he thinks you might need to do to win a fight if you wind up in one. For his rifle applications especially, his emphasis is moving from various ready positions to target so that you can better use cover and concealment and navigate what he refers to as “the battlefield”.
3. Try before you buy
This is a good way to see if this approach is one you want build without dropping a few hundred dollars. A lot of gun guys get sticker shock (and I’m one of them) but here you can decide if the expensive in-person training is worth the money to you.
This is in my mind the strongest value of virtual training. I know from taking some virtual training previously that there are some instructors that wouldn’t mesh well with me. I wouldn’t be a benefit to the class and the benefit of the class to me would be minimal. At the same time from watching some training I can say “I like your approach” and get an idea of whether I would mesh well with the instructor.
WPSN has a couple of very strong contributions for discerning a good instructor/class fit that is still more than just a sales pitch. “100 deadly skills: combat edition” lets you get a taste of 13 different instructors and the overview/stand in student is competent and serious. Master’s Zone similarly lets you see a muay thai champion learn and spar with different people and schools. I didn’t watch those shows in their entirety this time round but I most definitely will the next time I subscribe.
4. Various training aspects I liked
His use of “ditties” or “mantras” in shooting really helps his material stick in your head so you can develop it when you go on the range to work on the skills. Most of it wouldn’t make sense without the setup he gives in the course but one example is saying “eeeeeeeaaaaasssssyyyy” to yourself as you are building pressure on the trigger. For me that worked better than all the reading in the world about “surprise breaks” and “let it surprise you”. It dovetailed perfectly with what the CMP taught me about not trying to grab the perfect shot. The Small Arms Firing School instructor explained that by the time your brain has recognized perfect sight alignment and perfect target alignment, AND your made the decision to break the shot, AND your finger completed the command, even assuming you didn’t make an error in execution (a bad assumption), the sights will have moved. They said “accept the wobble” and for me those lessons dovetailed perfectly. If I have good sight alignment and the wobble is within the acceptable target area I say “eeeeeeaaaaassssy” and the break happens somewhere in there. That’s helped a lot. This is one example but the general use of words helps the material stick in my head.
In his force-on-force examples he explicitly says “we do not practice dying” and this is a subtle but important thing. If you practice “I’m hit, I sit down, it’s over” you are practicing on some level giving up instead of fighting to the end. The way he runs force on force is that he tells you when you are dead, he tells you the magic words that end the exercise, you practice fighting to the end. This goes hand in hand with “psychological stops” and helps keep students from developing a very bad habit that a lot of people don’t know is a danger. That speaks very well of how seriously they have developed their curriculum.
5. His pistol classes are built with the concealed carrier in mind.
From drawstroke, to likely threat, to commonly noted criminal behavior from observing gunfights, to risks when using cover and concealment, he has built the curriculum with concealed carry in mind. For US based readers that is a relevant consideration and a step up from a basic pistol marksmanship clinic.
1. Inherently supplemental
This is something that they mention repeatedly: you do need actual in person training. Especially for things that involve force on force whether that’s personal (think martial arts) or weapons based (refereed force on force training/simulations) you cannot learn those lessons virtually. Beyond the force on force, it’s also very difficult to catch yourself doing things wrong with a new skill. An experienced teacher who can help you fix your largest errors and get you to where you can self coach is a very valuable thing and always missing in virtual learning.
2. Legal restrictions/risks are largely not covered
I’m not saying that he has to cover this but you and I do have to know that territory. If you’re looking for an understanding of what rules you have to follow if you don’t want to wind up in prison you won’t find that here. The skills may help you stay out of the morgue but not necessarily prison. John Lovell will note several times that “we’re assuming you have met the legal, moral, and ethical standards for this use of force” but his focus is on the force in the situation.
There is no way they could cover the legal intricacies in the 50 US states let alone international standards, regardless, it is a missing and important piece of the puzzle you need to address elsewhere. “Projecting the cut” has…dubious legal advice and application. If you want to just learn how to throw knives that’s fine. If you want to learn how to use knives that’s fine. The legal restrictions on how you use that skillset need much more careful exploration than they offer. “The Realities of Criminal Assault” show (which I did not finish this time) on the other hand does have some information about staying on the right side of the law and trying to stay out of use of force which is the best answer. As a whole this is an area you will have to supplement elsewhere.
3. The pistol and rifle courses are heavily focused on striker fired pistols and AR type rifles.
You can cross apply a lot of things but a lot of it is focused on those specific types of firearms. It’s like anything, the more specialized you are the better for that situation but the less applicable for different situations. If you are using something different (either by choice or because of legal restrictions) you will have to weigh and adapt their offerings more than if you are using what they are. In my case I am not using either of those types of weapons but still felt I benefitted a great deal. It’s a con but not a huge one.
I will resubscribe periodically and do more virtual training but I’m not continually subscribed.
You only ever get out of something what you put into it and skill development takes time. What that means for me is that I need to put into practice some of the things I’ve learned from them. I will need to rewatch and see what I garner with more rounds downrange and more repetitions under my belt. I know that rewatching after developing the skill for a while would be good. I also know that I could not be as focused as I want to be if it was always there. I needed a break and for me leaving and coming back with good focus is a good solution.
It must be said that I am more cautious than many with my pennies, most people I know would say “well if it’s worth 90 bucks I’ll just get the year subscription and let it ride”. And that’s entirely reasonable, it’s something I considered, and maybe that would be the wiser course. It’s not what I chose.
My suggestion would be to try it for a month, take it seriously, take notes while watching, watch it on your computer or television rather than your phone, to give it your full attention. Try out some of the techniques and decide for yourself. It’s well worth a 10 dollar charge to try it. And as a final “pro” the unsubscription process was easy and painless. None of the normal “very difficult to cancel your free trial”, they don’t have retention specialists or any of that kind of Bovine Scat. They think their product stands for itself and I think they are right.