AAR Sentinel Concepts Essential Handgun Employment 5/27-5/28/2017

Sentinel Concepts (http://sentinelconcepts.com/)
Essential Handgun Employment
Taught by Steve “The Yeti” Fisher
May 27 2017
Alliance PD Range in Ohio
2 days, approximately 16 hours
Cloudy with some sun temps in the low to mid 70s some rain during the final qual on day 2

I used my Glock 17 gen 4 (Factory trigger and springs) with Raven Phantom OWB holster and raven mag pouches. In the afternoon on the second day I switched to a Glock 34 with a TLR-1HL and a overwatch precision tac trigger in a JM custom kydex OWB holster

Most students use some variation of Glock, one had an HK, and another used a Springfield EMP. There was a mix of holster positions from AIWB to strong side IWB and OWB.

The day started early at 0800, we spent the first hour-ish on introductions and some pre range information and the medical brief and what to do if someone is injured. This included finding those in the class with medical experience who were then designated secondary, Steve being the primary to provide immediate care. He went over calling 911 and how to direct them to our location. Steve ending the brief with “big boy rules” Don’t do stupid shit with guns or you will be kicked out/go to the hospital and we will shoot your ammo. Simple enough.

Steve is an awesome instructor. I met Steve for the first time the day prior at his practical shotgun class, within 10 words he had the class laughing and learning. He can come of strong if you are not used to being busted on and he drops F bombs like candy, but never in a way that is counterproductive to learning. His class was very relaxed and easy to be comfortable in. The class had a variety of students ranging from people will little experience or training to SRT/SWAT guys & girls and even other instructors.

One thing Steve said is that his goal “is to break you down, and rebuild you better”. He was being very serious, both in physical technique and mentally. He will not hesitate to tell you that “you suck” after a string of fire, it was never demeaning. It was encouraging; he expects excellence from his students and knows how to get them to find it.

The first shots fired of the day were from 25 yards at a silhouette target, the focus of which was a 5”X7” box in the target. All ideas of how awesome we were evaporated in the first 10 rounds of the class. The next drill was 10 rounds at 3(5?) yards aimed at a 2 “ dot. After that we completely unloaded our guns and Steve had everyone individually draw to their grip, which he then proceed to “break down and rebuild”. We would look down our sights while he adjusted our grip and asked us to increase/decrease grip pressure and change hand positions while we could see how our front sight moved. This “drill” took around 30 minutes or more until Steve had seen and worked with every single student. At the end of it we better understood how our grip affected the sights and how to diagnose our own bad shots without being told. At the end of the first day, several students said this part alone was worth the cost of attending.

The structure that Steve uses for teaching was something I found to be beneficial. After each drill the class would “round table”. Steve and the Assistant instructors would point out errors that were made either by individuals or by several students. Then he would ask every student “what did you notice?” “Why did you suck?” “how can you fix it?” and other questions that made you think more about what went wrong. Steve was able to give critiques and offer advice in a given drill that suited the individual student. We did not do a large number of drills on the first day, but I learned more than the typical class where you just shoot drills with no real reflection on the outcome.

Steve demands accuracy at all speeds and distances. The target for all the drills was either 5”X7” box (if the round is touching the line but still in the box…it’s a miss!), a 2 “ dot” or our first bullet hole. The smaller targets held the students to a higher standard and helped us diagnose our errors better. They are also reasonably realistic target areas. Steve Explained that the 5”X7” was a fairly consistent size for the vital zone on most individuals even if they are only presenting a side view.

Steve setup a demo where he placed a target on the 25 yard mark the lined up with another target (25 yards away). He shot the first target from about three yards and showed us how the group spread over distance. The target he shot through had a group about 2”s or less. The target on the other side had a group 6-10 inches in size.

On day two Steve introduced us to some drills that incorporated live fire and dry fire in to them to further diagnose our issues. We also covered the different types of reloads and what situations and why they are suited to those situation (or not). In order to induce some stress, the class lined up in two rows around the 7 yard line and Steve would give a drill for us to do. Two students at the start command would draw and fire the drill, if your shots are outside the box, if your gun runs empty or fails, if you finish last, you lost. This was done until only one winner remained. Steve pointed out (many times) that we get to much into our own heads and panic. Even at close distances people we rushing shots and missing easy hits because the lost control and panicked.

Next we covered malfunctions. Steve has three methods that are simple and effective and most importantly work. He explained in great detail the context, whys and when. To summarize them, “Smack the magazine and rip the slide off the gun.” If that does not work “remove the magazine, let shit fall out, reload, and rip the slide off the gun”

If the slide is stuck, grasp it with your support hand and violently drive your strong hand into the grip. To practice these, Steve had us load 3-5 empty cases into our magazines with live rounds. Chaos began. The empty cases were unpredictable in what they did. There was no way to game the drill. I used 4 magazines in this drill, by the end I had dealt with stove pipes, inline stove pipe, double feeds, stuck slides, and everything in between. This drill changed the scripted way I had done these exercises into an unpredictable realistic mess.

The final exercise was the dreaded timed qual. Each student was individually timed as they shot from 25 yards and in with the same strict accuracy standards. Out of the 22-ish students in the class only 1 or 2 were able to complete it.

At the end of class Steve explained that he can’t fix X number of years of bad habits in two days all he could do was show us the how and whys, and that it is up to us in our own time to get better and practice more. He also talked about his curriculum and how he teaches a given class. He said most of the time after the first drill he throws it out and teaches to what the class needs. This class spent much of the time around 7 yards working drills while trying for the best shots we could get.

I have been to a couple classes and many pistol matches before, but nothing with the demands that Steve has for accuracy. Before I signed up I was pretty intimidated about it, but I wanted to get better and I hoped that if I could only take one thing away it be worth it. I took away over 20 pages of notes and really I should have taken more, I have a new grip to work on, and a new perspective on how distance works in the real world. I enjoyed every minute of this class and hope to take it again.

On a side note:

One student had broken their arm sometime prior to the class and was still in a sling. She shot all the drills with the same demanding accuracy standard better than most of us…support hand only.

There is No excuse to not train.


Network Support I
Per Chris Taylor's post regarding consolidation of AAR's

AAR Sentinel Concepts' Essential Handgun Employment - 5/27/17 - 5/28/17

Location: Alliance Police Training Facility, Alliance Ohio

Approx. Time: Day 1: 0800-1700 / Day 2: 0845 - 1730

Instructor: Steve Fisher

AI's: Cory Hupp

Approx. Students: 22 from varied skills sets and professions including LE and former Mil

Approx. Round Count: 588

Day 1 Weather: Partly cloudy with highs in the mid 70's. Early showers before class, dry for the remainder of the day.

Day 2 Weather: Partly cloudy with brief showers in the afternoon during class, highs in the mid 70's.

Gear: For practical reasons, I wore and carried what I would any given normal day except a few items. Lowa Innox Mid GTX TF boots, blue jeans, T-shirt, Ares Gear Aegis Enhanced Belt, pocket knife, Surefire Fury P2X Tactical w/ Raven Concealment Pocket Clip, CNC Holsters Keroman V2 IWB Holster w/ Pull-the-dot loops AIWB (my daily carry holster), (3) HSGI Pistol Taco's mounted on a Raven Concealment Moduloader (for daily carry, I use the Raven Concealment Pocket Shield with a Blue Force Gear Ten Speed Double Pistol Magazine Pouch), Oakley M3 Eyepro, MSA Sordin Supreme Pro-X Ear Pro, SOFTT-W Tourniquet on Philster Flatpack, and notebook.

Firearms: Main Weapon - Glock 19 Gen 4, Overwatch Precision Tac Trigger, Agency Magwell, Blacklist Barrel, Surefire X300 U/B, Dawson Precision Adjustable Black Rear Sight and Green Fiber Front, Taran Tactical +4/5 bases. Backup Weapon: Glock 19 Gen 3, set up identically to the main weapon except with a stock Glock barrel.

Personal Shooting Background: I have been shooting for about 4 years, but shooting seriously with the goal of improvement for about 6 months. Up until this class I have had no previous class instruction or coaching. Due to my father or brother having no experience with firearms, everything I learned about has been either self taught or picked up from the internet, forums, Youtube, etc...

Reasons/Goals for the class: I felt like I had reached a point in my shooting where I could not improve unless I was taught correctly. I wanted to build a solid foundation from which I could grow my skill and proficiency with a firearm. I had been introduced to Steve via P&S Modcasts.

Day 1:

During the first hour, Steve established the ground rules of class regarding weapon safety, emergency medical plan, designated emergency medical personnel, and personal conduct expectations. His conduct and safety philosophy boils down to this; act like an adult, use your brain, and he will treat you like an adult. If you don't, then he won't, and you will be asked to leave.

Within the first hour of instruction, Steve had crushed all of my held philosophies about shooting. Steve breaks down concepts in such a way that I found myself continuously having those "Ah shit, okay" moments all weekend.

After a brief morning class session, the class went to the range where Steve assessed the class' ability with the Sentinel Concepts Pistol Qual starting with 10 rounds at 25 yards. He held to his promise that you will feel defeated. His goal is to break you down, but then build you up in a way that you feel a want and need to improve and go forward. My first notes were that most people were under utilizing their shoot time and rushing their shots. Personally, I could feel my anxiety with firing and noticed my recoil anticipation kill my shots. There were even moments where the trigger wasn't resetting before I pulled again. This became a focus area for improvement.

After the beginning qual, Steve then addressed the trigger velocity, grip, and body mechanics that all contribute to a missed shot. Steve had all of the students line up where he then individually corrected grip and shooting posture. I found this immensely beneficial and noted for future improvement that I have to practice and control my left hand grip, pinkies, elbow angles, shoulder position, and body lean (Houston folks are all about the lean). Putting these positions together, I felt instant relief on my shoulders and lower back. Not many people think about the physical fatigue that can take a toll on shooter accuracy over time.

After the physical aspects, Steve went into the psychology of shooting, shooting speed, shooting to your ability, as well as the importance of accuracy beyond scoring on paper. What I really appreciated about this discussion was that Steve's material is based on scientific evidence he has obtained with the help of related professionals. I made a mental note to try physically resetting, relaxing, stop thinking, and slowing down for shots. The class was not a life or death scenario, so I could take that time I needed to let my sights settle and pull the trigger with a constant velocity as soon as I had the proper alignment. I kept having to remind myself that I wasn't here to satisfy anyone, but to improve myself. Therefore, I should give myself the best chance possible to apply Steve's concepts.

Steve ended the Day 1 class the way it began with the Sentinel Concepts pistol qual starting at 25 yards. I found myself still rushing my shots and feeling anxious, but my grip and position became the focus allowing me to improve with 7 less overall misses.

Overall, I felt Day 1 was more concept based than performance based when looking back at tempo and exercise count.

Whenever a new topic or idea was introduced, Steve promptly demonstrated and had us perform one or two live fire exercises related to the topic of discussion to (successfully) illustrate that, hey, these things aren't bullshit if they're applied correctly. The fact that Steve was able to demonstrate each and every exercise really spoke to his ability and teaching philosophy. After each live fire session, we had a class hot wash giving each person a chance to reflect and bring up what they got out of the drill. These debriefings throughout the class allowed me to develop a list of areas of improvement that I can work on on my own time. As experienced, hard-nosed, and real as Steve is, never once did he generate an environment that felt inhospitable to learning. If someone didn't bring up something they wanted clarified, it was on them. Steve jokes, gives you shit when it's deserved, and lays it painfully on the line, but you immediately feel that he genuinely has an interest in each student's improvement as long as that student themselves wants to improve.

Day 2:

Once again, Steve has us open with everyone's favorite qual beginning at the 25 yard line. I found myself resorting to old habits despite the previous night's corrective dry fire session, but I was able to instantly recognize them and correct them going forward. My shooting on Day 2 had improved over Day 1 once the corrections were made as best as able. Like Steve said, my bad habits won't be broken in 16 hours of class time, but will be broken by constantly applying what was learned in those 16 hours going forward.

Steve had determined that we needed further trigger press work, and had us perform partner drills in which the partner would stand out of sight and either hand us our gun with a round or without a round in the chamber and fire at a 2" circle at 5/7 yards. I found this drill really made me aware of my recoil anticipation and adjust as needed for the day. I was needing to take that time to breathe and focus on my grip to properly drive the gun and control the recoil. As Steve said, a gun is going to recoil, but you can determine the path and way it recoils for your advantage or disadvantage.

Steve then instructed the class on the more known ready positions and the practicality or impracticality of each. The class then conducted live fire exercises to allow us to determine the benefits or consequences of each and explore which position we felt most comfortable with. Most of the class ended up resorting to the same ready position which was interesting to note and discuss afterwards.

After ready positions, Steve worked reloads and covered the "why's" and "when's" of each type. The class conducted live fire drills under his and Cory's supervision and corrected a lot of issues. I found that my improper technique was ingrained from doing drills at home, but like most habits would be corrected over time. At the beginning, it was evident that I was struggling with muscle memory and consciously applying new techniques resulting in a hand dance between mag pouches and gun. Many struggled with efficiency and performing the task in the close to body work space.

Next was malfunction identification, instruction on the methods of malfunction clearance, and advanced diagnostics when the traditional clearance methods do not work. This included tap-rack, ripping the magazine and re-inserting to perform tap-rack, and mortaring when the gun was completely locked up. Malfunction drills were induced by loading empties into the magazine among live rounds. This exercise more than any other seemed to make the wheels fall off for the class mentally, myself included. I noticed that I wasn't struggling with recognizing a malfunction, but how to remedy the malfunction when the traditional tap-rack won't work and advanced actions are needed. This resulted in wasted ammo that is valuable in a real life situation. Furthermore while conducting live fire, I found that I could clear a malfunction, but when a reload was needed, I kept going back and forth between the separate actions and created way too many inefficiencies. I noted that I had separated these two actions into their own tasks mentally, but to go forward successfully I need to marry the two. 1 = 1 and 2 = 2, but 1 + 1 = 2.

To tie everything together and generate stress, Steve held competitions among the class with drills that incorporated the teachings for reloads and accuracy. I found my shooting had improved to the point where I could identify the shot I missed not only based on my physical status, but my gun alignment as well.

The class ended with the pistol qual starting at the 25 yard line, but this time the student shot on their own under review by Steve and Cory. I found in the end that my shots had tightened up and my overall misses were down by 18 from the beginning of class. I also found myself diagnosing and making note to adjust in the middle of the drill which is something I was not able to do consistently in the past.

Was I the top shooter overall? No. Did I obtain the 80% overall on the qual? No.

Can I? Yes.

Steve ended the class summarizing his philosophy on the practical applications of what he taught based on every day scenarios and settings we find in life. It's our job to be prepared.

Overall Takeaway:

Like I had said in the final round-table discussion to wrap the class up: Going forward; it's up to you personally. Steve gave us the tools lay the foundation to be a proficient and accurate shooter. Your improvement or degradation ultimately lies on your drive and dedication. I have a list of things I need to work on, and that's what I wanted out of this class. The fact that I have a prescription list of exercises and corrective actions to take home and improve myself with was well worth the trip from Texas. People are unique and find themselves suited better to some teachers and their teaching methods more than others be it in school or in life. I found from listening to my first P&S modcasts that Steve was one of the mods that was always able to make things click for me. I would absolutely take another class from him not only for the value of material being instructed, but my own selfish desires to show him a return on investment and my improvement.

See you soon Steve.