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MAG-120 Massad Ayoob Group Class Review

MAG-120 Massad Ayoob Group Class Review

The Massad Ayoob Group (MAG) Level 3 class, MAG-120, was held in Live Oak Florida for five days in early December 2021. My son attended and I assisted as range staff. Lots of shooting, lots of learning, and lots of fun happened in those five full days. This is an overview of that class.

For schedule, pricing, prerequisites, and required equipment please see the official MAG website

See our MAG80 overview.

The class name MAG-120 comes from the cumulative number of hours of MAG instruction a student will have received by the end of the class. MAG-40 and MAG-80 (or LFI-1 and LFI-2) are prerequisites for this class.

MAG-120 class photo

Class photo

For schedule, pricing, prerequisites, and required equipment please see the official MAG website

See our MAG-40 Review

See our MAG-80 Review

See Shooting the MAG Qual for tips on shooting the Qual at any speed from Standard to Quad!

The class name MAG-120 comes from the cumulative number of hours of MAG instruction a student will have received by the end of the class. MAG-40 and MAG-80 (or LFI-1 and LFI-2) are prerequisites for this class.

Class Location

The class was held in Live Oak Florida, not far from the scenic Suwannee River.

Swanee river song

Way down up-on the Swan-ee Riv-er, far, far a-way

For most of the 26 students attending the class, Live Oak was truly far, far a-way from home. But for five days of beautiful scenery and advanced level instruction with one of the best cadres of instructors anywhere, being away from home wasn't so bad.

Cows in field near class location

Mind the cows

Classroom Instruction

Massad Ayoob lectures

Massad Ayoob introduces a topic

The MAG website describes this class as follows:

"MAG120 includes: “outer limits” exercises of advanced combat handgun skill…advanced combat shotgun…introduction to assault rifle and submachine gun…ambidextrous shooting skill…shooting under extreme pressure…advanced subtleties of self-protection both on the street and in the courtroom. Full certification in weapon retention and Kuboton/Persuader are included. Ideal for the instructor or future instructor. 40 hrs. Submachine guns will be available depending on location."

In my experience, one thing MAG doesn't do is over promise or under deliver. This five-day class was no exception. All topics were thoroughly covered. In fact the description served as more of a launching pad for the week as there were some valuable off-menu experiences included as well.

Triple Speed Combat Handgun Qualification

Day one at the range we hit the ground running. Right out of the starting gate was the triple speed qualifier. Cold, with no warm up.

Though this qual would be shot a few more times throughout the week, nearly all of the class passed it the first day - these students came prepared!

Class top shot

Best in class: 297/300 on the Triple Speed qual!

Mirror Image Ambidextrous Shooting Skills

A mirror image qual is one where a right handed shooter shoots as if they were a lefty with the handgun on the left side in a left handed holster. Spare mags will be on the right side. Vice-versa for a lefty.

Mirror image shooting

Everything is backwards!

This tends to be more of a challenge than you might think if you have not done it before. All of the training and repetitions that the dominant hand has acquired over time are absent for the "other hand". The pistol is no longer that familiar and comfortable old friend that the dominant hand remembers. Rather, it is a new, awkward and unfamiliar object.

For that reason, it is very important to go slow and remember the basics. It is a humbling experience. For an instructor, shooting mirror image is a reminder of the difficulty that your students who are new to shooting face.

Having ambidextrous shooting skills, experience and equipment is also valuable in the event of an injury to your dominant hand/arm.

Ambidextrous shooting skils were taught

Outer Limits Advanced Combat Handgun Drill

Difficult shooting drills

Far out

The Outer Limits qual is a test of how fast you can shoot the MAG qualification course and still get a passing score. As long as you shoot a passing score (225/300 or 75%), all that matters is the time.

Each string of fire is timed separetly for each student and the times are recorded. The time it takes to shoot all five strings of fire is added together and then divided into the 206 seconds allowed for the standard speed qual. The result is a multiplier that is essentially what speed you shot the qual in. 5X and 6X times on this Outer Limits qual were not uncommon in the class.

Long Range Pistol Shooting

Long range pistol shooting, first introduced in MAG-80, returned. Rolling slightly onto the strong arm side helped many folks to get lined up with the sights. Sight alignment and trigger control took on a new level of importance as the distance stretched to 50 yards and beyond!

Long range pistol shooting

Range Master Steve Denney runs the 50 yard line

Hits on targets at 50 yards

Hits and smiles

Night Shooting

Swamp near night shooting range

The sun sets over a Suwannee swamp

As day two ended, the night shooting instruction got under way.

Flashlights used at night

Night can be scary

All aspects of night shooting were discussed and numerous techniques for coordinating a handheld flashlight with the pistol were introduced. The pros and cons of each were shown and then experienced first hand in dry fire and then live fire.

Night shooting video

Each student had an opportunity to shoot their personal carry ammo to see what kind of muzzle flash it had in total darkness. This was very much appreciated because it's very good info to have but few people have access to a range at night to do it.

Modern day defensive ammunition generally has a low muzzle flash, but there are exceptions.

Large fireball from revolver shooting at night

A blast from the past. This photo (circa 1984) shows Mas firing a Federal 125 grain 357 Magnum round from a 4" S&W revolver. In total darkness, gun flash provides only illumination for photo. Cover photo from the Stressfire Volume 1 book by Massad Ayoob 1984.

Police Style Qualifications

Several police qualifications were shot for the record with both pistol and shotgun or rifle.

Quals included the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) In-Service Qualification, the Arkansas Carbine Course and the New Hampshire P.O.S.T. Shotgun Qualification.

Shooting different quals means using different targets. Some welcome additions to the usual USPSA cardboard targets were the FBI-Q and the B-21 "Blue Man" targets.

FBI target scoring

FBI-Q Target

B-21 targets prior to qualification

B-21 Targets

Either a rifle or a shotgun can be used for the long gun portion of the class. Shotguns generally outnumber rifles but this class was about evenly split.

Table of long guns used for class

Long guns used for the class

Massad Ayoob Stressfire books Vol 1 and 2

Weapon Retention Training

The weapon retention and disarming instruction continued to build on the MAG-80 foundation. Most class days involved extensive discussion and drilling in both basic and advanced techniques. Students received weapon retention certifications at the end of the course.

Weapon retention techniques taught

Mas demonstrates a technique

Outdoors handgun retention training

Attacks to the handgun from the rear

Safety is a serious consideration during training of this type. Injuries including sprains, broken bones and even death are all too possible if certain safety guidelines are not followed.

Mas and the MAG staff were scrupulous and uncompromising in this regard. All personal weapons including guns, knives, etc. were removed from the training area. Students with injuries then marked the injured arm, shoulder, back, etc. with blue tape so partners were aware of their limitation.  

Every session then began with a stretching routine. Clutter was kept off the ground to prevent slip hazards.  Blue, inert training guns were used throughout.

Proper protective equipment was mandatory including safety glasses and work gloves.

Thankfully, one change from 2020 was that masks were no longer required during weapon retention training. I could breathe!

Blue guns are the gold standard for inert training guns. They are solid and unbreakable. The Blue Guns brand can be purchased on Amazon. Link to Glock 17 Blue Gun on Amazon.

protective PPE equipment was required for training

Proper protective equipment, masks were optional

Weapon disarming class

Weapon disarming

Ayoob demonstrates weapon disarming

Rain or shine: Training moved indoors during rain showers

Kubotan Instruction

Official Kubotan Techniques book by Tak Kubota


The Kubotan is a 5.5" long cylindrical stick invented in the late 1960's by Takayuki "Tak" Kubota. This innocent looking "tootsie roll" can be a very effective self defense tool when used for strikes, joint locks and pressure point techniques. It won't do any of those things well without training though.

The class received 4 hours of instruction in the Kubotan with much of it saved until the last day. This is because the sore hands, fingers and wrists from Kubotan training are unwelcome when trying to pass high speed shooting qualifications. Each student received a Kubotan certification at course end.

Ice was used for sore hands during the class

Ice was kept available for sore hands and joints. It was appreciated!

Ken Kelly, Kubotan instructor and advanced martial artist, taught strikes with the Kubotan. A combination of life-size sparring dummies and soft Kubotan training sticks allowed students to hit with full speed and power. It was excellent hands on training.

Realistic training used training dummies

Realistic training

Teaching New Shooters

MAG-120 is billed as "Ideal for the instructor or future instructor" . To that end, students were given an opportunity to teach someone who was new or almost new to shooting.

In an afternoon, each student-instructor successfully taught his/her new shooter how to safely fire six shots, reload, and fire six more on a cardboard target with the student-instructor's own pistol.

Smiles, big and small, were everywhere!

By all accounts this was one of the most rewarding segments of the course.

Equipment Recommendations

This MAG-120 equipment list is from the Massad Ayoob Group website and was current as of December 2022. I highly recommend you refer to the MAG website for the latest details. My recommendations and links are included.

  • Good quality handgun. It is very important that your pistol be reliable. If it is easy to shoot that would be a bonus for this 500 round count class. Where to Buy Guns Online.
  • Good quality holster. Quality holsters do not collapse when the pistol is removed and do not require two hands to draw or reholster. See holsters at Palmetto State Armory
  • Minimum of 3 magazines or speed loaders. See pistol mags at Palmetto State Armory
  • Magazine pouch for at least two magazines. 
  • Sturdy belt. The Wilderness Instructor Belt is a favorite. For a less tactical, more traditional belt, it is hard to beat Hanks Belts.
  • Hearing protection. Active electronic muffs are not required but are definitely recommended. Many kinds to choose from at Palmetto State Armory and Amazon.
  • Eye protection. If possible, eye protection that protects from side impacts is a good idea.
  • Billed cap. 
  • At least 500 rounds of decent quality, reliable ammunition. Best Places to Buy Ammo Online
  • Clothing suitable for the weather and the range.
  • Raingear plus light jacket or sweater.
  • Note taking materials.
  • Firearm cleaning supplies.
  • Flashlight.
  • Dummy gun. Holster if dummy gun is not same as your pistol used in class. Link to Glock 17 Blue Gun on Amazon.
  • Work gloves
  • Body armor if you have it. Where to Buy Body Armor Online
  • Longgun requirements for MAG-120:
    • Centerfire rifle or shotgun.
    • Carbine may be pistol caliber, .223, .30 Carbine or 7.62X39. Rifles should be semiautomatic. Must have three magazines minimum. 100 rounds total.
    • Shotguns must have four round magazine minimum. May be slide action or semi-auto. 100 rounds total - 90 rifled slugs, ten buckshot rounds.
    • If you want to fire full-auto machine guns please bring Factory Made pistol caliber ammunition, the type will be dependant on location. Quality Factory Ammo is required.


MAG-120 staff photo

Partial lineup of the MAG-120 staff

This MAG-120 class was five jam packed days.

It was fun and it was exhilirating. It was somber and it was deadly serious. It was inspiring and it was life affirming.  

Friendships were forged.  Future instructors were molded. Fields of cardboard foes were felled.

The many quals, all shot with money on the line, provided both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

First-rate staff and serious, dedicated students made it all possible. Too easily taken for granted, one thing that this class was at all times was safe. A sincere, heart-felt hat tip to everyone for that.  

In short, at the end of the day and at the end of the week - it was worth it.

Way down up-on the Swan-ee Riv-er, we had a week we won't soon forget.

Special thanks, as always, to gracious hosts Herman and Leischen!

This is an overview of most of this MAG-120 class. There was training and activities commensurate with an advanced level class such as this that I won't detail in an online article.

If you are a third level graduate (MAG-120 or LFI-3) and are interested in continuing the journey, consider MAG-180. Details here:

Evening dining choices

Good food!

Lights were used at night

Night Lights

Slider the donkey was spotted

Slider sighting

Thrill of victory

Go Air Force!

Range line up for shotgun qual

A day on the range

David Blazek photo

Author David "Blaze" Blazek is an LFI-4 graduate and has been a staff instructor with Massad Ayoob Group since 2010

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Massad Ayoob Group MAG
Jan 05, 2022 David "Blaze" Blazek

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