Pistol CQB, CSAT Paul Howe. Jan 11-12, 2020. Nacogdoches, Texas


January 11-12, 2020. Nacogdoches, Texas

Class Size: 10 students and 3 instructors (Paul, Cheston, Mark) http://www.combatshootingandtactics.com/instructors.htm

Tuition: $800. Fee includes option of staying in barrack http://www.combatshootingandtactics.com/facility_barracks.htm


I recently completed the Pistol CQB course with Combat Shooting and Tactics (CSAT) led by Master Sergeant (ret) Paul Howe and two CSAT instructors, Mark and Cheston. This was the inaugural pilot course and we were all honored to be the first class. Paul has taught this curriculum to LE and military in the past, but he has never offered pistol CQB before to civilians. A rifle CQB version has been offered before and in fact, most of the students had attended the rifle version recently. Paul believes that pistol CQB is inherently more complicated as managing muzzle control can be more challenging. Our class consisted of 10 students aged mid-20’s to mid-50’s. Most had either LE and or military backgrounds and all except me had trained with Paul multiple times. There were at least several active LEOs. In my group of five, two were active LEOs, two were former LE. Two were Army before LE. I had sent Paul my training resume and was fortunate to have him accept me for this course. I am a civilian with no LE/military experience. I average about four training classes a year.

The course outline:

Day 1 (0800-2030)

  • Classroom 0800-10 AM
  • Range Calibration
  • Lunch
  • CQB training
  • Dinner
  • Low light CQB- 1730-2030 (we ended at 8 pm)

Day 2 (0800-1200)

  • Barricades (0800)
  • CQB shoot house.
  • Debriefing and graduation (1200)


I drove in from Houston and stayed in the barrack. The “barrack” is a dormitory like building with multiple rooms and 3 bunkbeds per room (capable of hosting 40 adults), two equipment racks for each room, three showers, two restrooms, microwave, refrigerator, washer dryer, common area. Paul provides linens (sheets, pillowcases, blanket) but I think it is better if you bring your own sleeping bag. The barrack is connected to the classroom and the pro-shop. The barrack is not offered to students for all classes. If you have an opportunity to stay in the barrack, then please do so. It not only saves you money but also enables you to meet the other students. This was great for me as all the other students had trained with Paul and it was helpful to learn their insights. http://www.combatshootingandtactics.com/facility_barracks.htm

The range is located separately from the barrack and is expansive and well planned. Based on 300 acres, there are long range areas, vehicle graveyard range, barricade range, several flat ranges, and two shoothouses. http://www.combatshootingandtactics.com/range.htm I was very impressed by the thoughtfulness of organization.

Lunch and dinner were 60 minutes each and since the barrack was only five minutes away, most students went back and had their meals there.


I think I was the only student with a pistol RDS. Everyone else had iron sights. I had interesting malfunctions with all my pistols during the class except for my G19X. There were several stove pipes, failure to feeds, double feeds and slide locks during firing (magazine not empty). Quite frustrating. This did not occur during the day but as it got darker, the malfunctions surfaced. I borrowed Paul’s stock Glock 19 the next day and had no issues using my own ammo. All of my pistols have been through multiple classes and have never had any issues. I put several hundred rounds through each system the week prior to class and all ran flawlessly.

As we ended early on Sunday, I stopped by a range before going home and put 100 rounds through each weapon system using the same magazines and ammunition. There were no repeat of any malfunctions. I was shooting 9 mm 124 gr American Eagle FMJ.

I am hypothesizing that a wearing glove on my support hand was a factor. I normally have my thumbs up during pistol shooting and normally do not wear a glove. Because it was so cold that weekend (28F and windy), my gloved thumb may have exerted too much resistance on the slide that it induced the stove pipes and failure to feed. My slides are lightened because of the RMR and serration cuts and I have a 13-pound spring guide rod. The gloved hand may have also pushed up the extended slide lock during firing and induced the premature slide locks. Whatever it was, the issues have not reappeared since without gloves.

Classroom Time:

We spent 2 hours on the first morning in the classroom. After introductions, Paul showed power points and videos of actual shootings/ambushes to demonstrate CQB concepts. When needed, he and an instructor would act out the movements for room clearing. Paul stopped frequently to encourage questions. The CQB lexicon was explained (i.e. #1 person (assaulter), #2 person (breacher), squeeze-tap, types of rooms, etc). We received a folder with three handouts containing CQB principles in outline form. If we wanted more information, Paul encouraged us to give him a 32 GB USB drive and he would download more data for us. Three other students and I gave him drives at the end of the class (more on this later). The only other time we were in the classroom was for the final debriefing and graduation on the second day. Bring a notepad and take notes.

Training Day One

The first exercise was called Range Calibration. This was a flat range drill where we would confirm our zeros, practice our draws, high compressed ready, and reloads. Since I was new to CSAT, I received personalized attention from Mark to make sure I had safe gun-handling skills and was not an idiot. Their load procedure was different than mine. I usually press check from the front and tap the slide from the back to ensure it is in battery. Mark wanted me to press check from the rear instead. This was a little awkward because of my RMR but hey, when in Rome…

Paul took me aside to show me the Sul position since I have never used this before. Paul prefers the Sul when moving around teammates and during entry for the #2 person. We finished the calibration portion with a drill of shooting and moving around one another in Sul.

We broke for lunch and returned at 1330 for the CQB portion. We met at the shoothouse and grouped into two teams of five. Each team was led by either Mark or Cheston with Paul intermixing to provide additional guidance. We kept the same teams on both days.

Safety protocols were reviewed and each instructor had their own Med-Kit backpack. Mark and Paul led Team 1 to one end of the shoothouse to learn T-intersections and movement down hallways, Cheston led Team 2 at the other end learning room entry and the roles of the #1 and #2 persons on a two-man team. After dry-fire runs, we did live fire. After some time, Team 1 and 2 switched instructors and lesson plans. We all took turns being the #1 and #2 person. Despite the potential dangers of free movement and pistols, I never felt unsafe for four reasons: 1) all the students were experienced shooters and were tight in their fundamentals and safety. 2) there were plenty of dry fire runs. 3) the movements were well choreographed and only one person was designated to shoot at a time in the early runs. 4) Finally, the instructors monitored muzzles in an OCD fashion.

We broke for dinner around 1630 and regrouped at 1730 for the low light portion. I took this break to hydrate, eat, and put on additional layers. I microwaved my socks and beanie and that was pure luxury.

Low light was when things got interesting. The temperature got down to 30F but it felt much colder because of the wind. There was a storm brewing. I had on two layers of compression tights under my pants, and three layers on top underneath a thick fleece, plus my body armor and gloves. A shemagh and fleece beanie topped it off. And I was still freezing. What really saved me were strategically placed hand warmer packets. I had one in each pant pocket, one in each fleece pocket and one on each side of my shemagh. Paul offered us burn barrels but we all declined because we did not want to dilute the darkness for the CQB runs at night. Talk about motivated students. The instructors all had a bright red LED light on their shoes that made them easily identifiable at night.

We did the same runs during the daytime but now with our WML. We even practiced with handheld flashlights and single hand shooting. This was when everyone learned the efficacy of their set up and light sources. I was very happy with my WML and the extended ARC light switches from PHlster. At night was when my malfunctions started. Try to clear malfunctions in pitch darkness and you’ll really test your skills. Room clearing in darkness with your WML added several levels of complexity. Not only was it disorienting but you had to be very careful with your muzzle control and light discipline. Again, the instructors were with us for each run and after so many daytime runs, it felt familiar at night.

Even though the runs were relatively choreographed (we knew which room the threat was), the instructors would switch around targets as to who became the threat. The pregnant lady with the gun on one run became the pregnant lady holding a cellphone the next time. The shady meth guy became an undercover police officer. We taped our hits each run so that the next student would not automatically zone in on the target with the holes. Again, teams switched halfway to navigate T-intersections vs room clearance. The most challenging targets were the hostage targets. There was the standard threat behind an innocent target, and then there was the CSAT special hostage target. This consisted of five pictures on one target. Each photo depicted a masked man whose head was to the right of a young lady. The exposure to the threat’s head progressively shrunk and the angle of threat and hostage changed as you went from one photo to the next. This really forced you to be surgically accurate and think about the angles of your shots.

At some point, we brought out a BOB dummy as an innocent bystander for the T-intersection and room clearing stations. We were supposed to maneuver around BOB or knock him down depending on the scenario.

We ended at 2000 and retired to the barrack.

Training Day 2 (0800-1200)

The last day was even colder (28F) but fortunately had no wind. We began the last day with barricade shooting. There were four vertical barricades with open spaces on each side. Steel targets were downrange (guestimating 25 yards). You would stand behind the barricade and had to shoot the steel target twice in both the standing and kneeling position left and right. Five rounds were allotted for the two hits in each position and each student ran through it twice. Leaning outward with your feet still within the barricade cover was discouraged. You had to shuffle close to the edge of the barricade and when ready, slide out past the barricade in your normal upright position to make the hits. Paul’s rationale was that you should learn to be accurate in your normal stance first. Once you can make the hits in your normal stance at least 70% of the time, then you can progress to leaning out. Most shooters are most accurate in their normal stance.

After the barricade work, we split into our teams again. Team 1 went to the old shoothouse with Cheston and Team 2 drove to the new shoothouse with Paul and Mark. Both shoothouses have a long hallway as the main thoroughfare. On each side of the hallway, there are doors and rooms. The doors would vary whether they open inwards or outwards, whether they open left to right or vice versa. Some rooms only had curtains and other rooms had subrooms with or without doors. Some rooms had closets. At the end of the shoothouses were the T-intersections. The new shoothouse had a garage attachment and a parked car in the open garage. The shoothouses were big enough that you could have several scenarios to clear. For example, the team would move down the hallway and have to clear a room with an inward opening door and then encounter a subroom. Once clear the team had to re-enter the hallway, move down it and enter a room on the opposite side with no door, then re-enter the hallway and clear a room with an outward door down the hall, etc. Some rooms had no threats whereas other rooms had more than one threat in different places.

With Cheston we did more runs like day 1 but had to clear more subrooms and room partitions without doors. We also learned how to provide cover while our partner layed hands on a simulated body. The hostage targets were again most challenging.

With Paul we did some hostage rescue scenarios and learned how to open a closet with our partner covering the opening. We also ran scenarios of answering domestic calls, kidnappings, etc. Paul had created a simple but ingenious reactive target. It consisted of a 2x4 that was hinged to a base. The target was stapled to the 2 x 4 where the center mass or spinal column would be. The target only falls if you hit center mass where the 2 x 4 was located behind the cardboard target. Quite clever.

The teams switched shoothouses. By 11:30 we were finished, packed up and drove to the barrack. Debriefings were done, questions answered, and certificates were given out. We cleaned up the barrack and people said their goodbyes. I was pleasantly surprised how considerate and neat everyone was at the barrack. Having a bunch of guys in a dorm like setting can be quite messy. I guess we all matured from our younger days.

Throughout the course, a fellow student took me under his wing. He made sure I knew where to go, had enough drill iterations, and welcomed me to the group. This meant a lot as everyone already knew one another from previous CSAT classes and I could have easily been excluded. Thank you buddy! Besides being a great guy, he could move and shoot. He shot 45 auto with a Glock 21 and despite being over 6 feet, moved liked a cat through the small doors and rooms.

Final Impressions

I had an amazing experience and drank from a firehose of knowledge. Although I have had my share of training, most have been flat range settings where skills rather than tactics were polished. Here, you learned both in a big way. There were many firsts. In no particular order, it was my first time working unit tactics for room clearing, first time in a shoothouse, first time wearing body armor, first time working with partners and using covert signals, first time using Sul to maneuver safely around teammates, first time with reactive targets, first time hostage rescue, first time with having to constantly target discriminate, first time with so many malfunctions on all my weapon systems, first time training in such cold weather, first time training in such a small class with a 1:3 teacher-student ratio.

The student quality in this class was superb. I have never had so many LE, former LE, former military before in any prior courses. These guys were well trained and truly professional. My team especially was outstanding. The difference was most evident with our verbal commands. While all I could think of saying was “Clear left or right, Shooter down left, Come to me, Moving, etc”, all commands we learned in class, my LE/former LE classmates added more specific commands such as “You, red shirt (target with red shirt) stay down, or show me your hands, or everyone stay down, etc” I learned a lot from observing my fellow classmates.

The instructor cadre was excellent. Paul of course has been teaching for over 30 years and it is hard to beat his resume. His A.I. Cheston and Mark were also excellent. You can tell that they have been training with Paul for years and knew the system well. No one yelled, no one said anything demeaning. All instructions and corrections were stated calmly, effectively, phrased positively and concisely. I had personal instruction when needed. Mostly it was when techniques were employed that they knew I had no experience with. At no time were we hurried along, asked to shoot faster, or berated for shooting a hostage (which I did once). Often, the instructors stressed for us to take our time and be accurate. The pace of live fire was adequate for a newbie like me to catch on and not feel overwhelmed. The emphasis was all on fundamentals. There were no fancy positions, unconventional styles, or ninja techniques. That was perfectly fine with me. Besides the CQB concepts, we all soaked up Paul’s views on current events, training level of LEOs, politics, and other commentaries.

Paul is simple and classy (smart, deadly, but simple in tastes and style). Four days after the class, I received a package from Paul with my USB drive. On the drive were 16.8 GB of information, ranging from dozens of videos of actual events (assaults, shootings), instructional material, and course syllabus. It was like Christmas and really, who does that? Back in the barrack at the end of the class, a student asked Paul if he could end the class with a prayer. Paul thanked the student and politely declined his offer. I really appreciated this. I think there is a time and place for prayer and perhaps no one would have minded. Nevertheless, it was a class act of consideration to not force it on everyone.

The negative parts of this class were relative and few.

  • Cold windy weather was beyond anyone’s control, but I think Master Sergeant Paul Howe could have made it happen. Never underestimate the weather.
  • Picking up brass at the end of the day is not my favorite chore but we all pitched in and it went by quickly.
  • $800 is a steep tuition. However, considering that I had no hotel expenses, had three instructors to 10 students, and 32 GB of gold on my USB drive, I would say that it was very reasonable.
  • The classroom time could have been more organized. All the students had taken Paul’s rifle CQB class recently and the concepts are the same. However, for me everything was foreign, and I felt that the concepts could have been more methodically taught and demonstrated in class. Fortunately, I catch on quickly and it was not much of an issue. Conversely, the live fire portion was very methodical.
  • Round count was about 300. You can never shoot enough.
  • Skill integration. We learned room clearing and T-intersection separately. Our drills were similarly compartmentalized. This was understandable as two teams were operating on each end of one shoothouse. However, on the last day one team had the run of the entire shoothouse. I think if the final runs had incorporated all these skills, then it would have been much more reinforcing. To go from clearing a room with inward door, outward door, subrooms, partitioned rooms, open door rooms, hallways, closets, curtained rooms and T-intersections would have been icing on the cake. Even without, the cake was pretty darn good.
  • We did not go over single person CQB at all. This would have been more applicable I think to me as a civilian. I am sure there are many similarities, but I do not know.

What would I have done differently?

I did not think to ask at the time, but I would have used some of my break time to run the shoothouse by myself with my finger pistol to practice the mechanics learned earlier. I would have stashed non-latex gloves in my kit for the brass pickup portion. Should have brought flip-flops for the barrack. Noise cancelling headphones would have been nice for snoring roommates or early morning conversations. I should have spent some time the first night writing notes of what I learned that day. I would have taken more videos. Paul allowed us to take video as long as 1) we were safe, 2) we told him if we were videoing him so that he could use his church vocabulary, 3) that we ask permission if there were other students in the video, and 4) that we did not post on the internet as it was meant for our own education. A few students had Go-Pro cameras on their hats.

What did I do right in terms of equipment?

Glad I brought the sleeping bag. Glad I brought three pistols. So so glad I had the hand-warmer packets. Glad I brought so many layers of warmth. Really happy with my body armor, plate set up, and belt/holster arrangement. On my drive back to Houston, I recorded my thoughts on my phone and this really helped to reinforce concepts and procedures while they were still fresh.

I think you would have to be an imbecile to not have enjoyed this class. Some would rather take two flat range classes for the $800. For those without proper fundamentals, this would be appropriate. If your fundamental skills are to the level of instinct, then this course is for you. In pistol CQB your instincts are heightened and challenged by a seasoned and battle-experienced instructor. One may ask, how likely are you going to be clearing rooms in your house? Not likely. If I found my front door smashed, then I would call the police unless I heard screams from a loved one inside. It’s also likely (and hopefully) that I will never use my weapon ever. I am hundreds of times more likely to be in a car accident than to ever fire my weapon in self-defense. But this is America where we have the privilege of freedom, of choice, and of personal responsibility. Some people like to spend $800 on ski-lifts and watches. I like to spend it learning pistol CQB.

First, great AAR and thank you.

Being a new student at CSAT, you did exceptional. You brought your training history to me and I “tweaked” it a bit.

Reference all your gear, you make it successful. Not the lumens, switches, latest pouch, etc. My job is to show you how to employ and simplify it. You stepped from a vanilla admin world into a tactical world and here is what I saw:

Your pistol malfunctioned repeatedly at short range. It is simply a mechanical tool that was engineered into unreliability. When I gave you my $500 out of the box Glock to shoot, you shot it well and it went bang every time.

You shoot with a support thumb high on the slide which tells me you are not locking your left elbow. When shooting without gloves it did not cause you any issues. When you added a glove and the extra surface area, it touched your slide even more and caused drag. Your slide and spring were probably reduced which is not a good thing. Tactical guys wear gloves for many reasons and gloves should not hinder your shooting, but will have about a 20% impact on your accuracy if you are not used to them.

With this, change two things. Shoot a more stock gun when doing tactical work and get your support thumb on the frame of your weapon and this will help you lock your elbow which in my experience, aids in accuracy. Further, with your thumb resting on a moving slide, it will constantly change your grip pressure on the gun.

In regards to the classroom, you were the “new guy” at this class and all were previous customers. You were drinking through a fire hose. However, I will not slow the class down for you. In my teaching system, you:

  • Saw the info in class
  • Saw an instructor demo it before your dry runs
  • You dry ran the drill
  • You live fired the drill

You took exceptional notes and I wish every student did the same. You keyed in on how to do it and take the time at night and write more. The classroom was always available to all students. At CSAT, I don’t entertain, I train. I will always give you more information than less when you come to CSAT. I am there before class at least an hour if you want to come in and ask questions and will answer questions during the class and you can e-mail them to me after as well.

As for the cost, I try and save students $200-300 on hotel costs in Nacogdoches. The building required me money to buy, remodel, stock, maintain and then you have cleaning costs, electricity, internet, etc. That puts the class cost into perspective when compared to other classes. If you are well off, stay in a hotel. I am good with that as well. That mean there is less of your laundry I have to do.

Thank you again for your AAR