A couple weeks ago, I began this series to recognize the people who have been most influential in my development as a shooter and instructor. The idea was inspired by Kyle Defoor’s “Paying Homage” series on his blog. The first entry in the series was about Chuck Davis and his partners at Comp-Tac; next was Ken Hackathorn.
This week it’s Ernest Langdon. While best known in shooting circles for his incredibly successful competition career — from numerous IDPA National Championships to being the first USPSA Production National Champion — Ernest’s background includes many years of service in the U.S. Marine Corps where he served in the first Gulf War. He was an instructor at the USMC Scout Sniper school and also served as the head instructor at the USMC’s High Risk Personnel course, where military and non-military government personnel received training on how to prevail against terrorist and criminal assaults while serving overseas.
Calling Ernest “influential” on my career is barely scratching the surface.
I met Ernest more than a decade ago shortly after I got seriously involved in IDPA. Ernest was the reigning national champion and I was an Expert class also-ran. But I was shooting a Beretta, and Ernest — who was both a sponsored Beretta shooter and a full-time employee of Beretta USA at the time — went out of his way to help me. He worked on my Berettas. I attended multiple high-intensity pistol classes he taught. He even invited me shoot in his squad at some big matches, offering tips and advice that made the difference between walking home with a trophy or not.
In early 2000, Ernest recommended me for the job at Beretta that kicked off my full time employment in the firearms industry. In addition to my regular duties, I became part of the Beretta Elite Team, traveling all over the country with Ernest and our fellow teammates Rob Haught and “Super” Dave Harrington. Whether it was hours on the range practicing, days at a match, or evenings hanging out at a hotel, it was impossible not to learn about shooting just by being around such incredible guys. (that’s Rob, me, and Ernest from L to R; photo from the 2002 IDPA Nationals at Mid-South)
When I moved on to work at SIG, Ernest was running his own company (Langdon Tactical Technologies, aka LTT). By coincidence, he had begun shooting a SIG P220ST and in no time we were back to traveling the country shooting IDPA matches together. In fact, 2004 was the most successful competition year of my career, often coming in second place (to Ernest) at more than half a dozen major matches. Ernest also had an OK year, winning eight state/regional championships, the S&W Winter Nationals, and becoming the first person to win IDPA Nationals in Custom Defensive Pistol division with a double/single-action pistol, beating out some of the world’s most talented and most successful 1911 shooters in the process.
The first pistol-training.com endurance test, the M&P9 Full Size, came about in large part due to Ernest’s intervention when my personally owned M&P9 cracked its slide. Ernest — who at the time was Director of Military Sales for S&W — set up the SHOT Show meeting between me and the M&P Product Manager that led to the test that kicked off a staple of the pistol-training.com website. (photo at right is Ernest shooting the 30,000th round through the endurance test gun in August 2008)
But while Ernest has played a big role in my career, that is dwarfed by the overwhelming influence he’s had on my shooting style.
It would be arrogant to say I shoot like Ernest Langdon. But I certainly strive to shoot like him. Taking classes from Ernest and shooting along side him for years completely changed my technique. What sets Ernest apart from many of his peers in the competition world is the practical nature of his background… and thus the combat-oriented nature of his shooting foundation. He is the first to admit that some of the techniques he teaches and uses are less than optimal for winning matches. But rather than compromise in the name of one more trophy, Ernest instead manages to excel using the same real world skills he has taught to countless Marines, soldiers, cops, and civilians for going in harm’s way.
While I’m sure there are little nuances that have changed in my technique over the years, the fundamental core of my shooting style — from stance and grip to the concept of knowing the difference between perfect and adequate for making a shot — began with Ernest Langdon and was refined by his influence, his advice, and sometimes simply by osmosis over years of shooting together.
There is no question in my mind that without Ernest Langdon’s instruction and mentorship, I would not be nearly the shooter (or instructor) I am today.
It was with great happiness — though very little surprise! — that I announced Ernest had earned a F.A.S.T. Challenge Coin (#04) back in 2009.
While Ernest has moved on from the firearms industry to work as the Director of Military Sales for a high-tech robotics company, he continues to shoot competitively as time allows. Even more important, Ernest has recently started teaching open enrollment classes again. To say that I would recommend a Langdon shooting class without hesitation is an understatement. Taking a class from Ernest Langdon is guaranteed to make you a better, smarter, more capable shooter. Period.
Whether it’s been working together, shooting together, or teaching together, Ernest has played a pivotal role in every aspect of my shooting life. Whatever successes I have achieved, Ernest Langdon has always been there leading the way. I cannot possibly thank you enough for all you’ve done, Ernest.
Train hard & stay safe! ToddG
(F.A.S.T. coin photo courtesy of Julie Golob)