I'm on a boat!
Sentinel Concepts Critical Handgun Employment AAR
I had the distinct pleasure of taking Critical Handgun Employment taught by Mr. Steve Fisher of Sentinel Concepts. The class was intended as an intermediate handgun class, presenting marksmanship and weapons manipulation at a higher level than often offered. To be completely upfront this was a three day class that consisted of me saying over and over again “I SUCK” in front of 17 of my peers. The material was easy to grasp but I spent the time un-learning bad habits and years of practice scars.
Day 1) After a brief introduction and good morning we prepped the range and went over range safety, namely medical and evac plans in case of an emergency. Steve was upfront about this being under “big boy rules” and that failure to meet safety standards would have you ejected from the class. We quickly found ourselves at the 25 yard range where egos were smashed and reality came calling. The following eight hours were spent largely on fundamentals of marksmanship, getting the lower performing half of the class up to speed so we could actually make the required shots. Steve didn't stop making this part of the class both fun and educational for those who could perform though, with constant circle sessions to cover what is being learned after drills. For every drill and idea presented Steve was quick to explain the real life reasons for what he was teaching, be it why he's shooting at the distances he's shooting or why the gun is to be handled a certain way. His way of explaining gunfights and the harsh reality of distances involved was eye opening for me as I'd previously been a three yard warrior which I no longer believe cuts it. Steve also took time to introduce his “standards”, the set of drills he considered key to passing. The drills and times comprising these standards were very attainable but needed to be worked for.
Day 2) The name of the game for day two was weapons manipulation, namely reloads and malfunction clearance. The block of instruction was designed around getting the shooters to understand that violence on the gun is a must, including demonstrations of failures to feed being smacked clear of the breech when proper form and force were utilized. Standards were revisited, this time with reloads in the mix. Before breaking before the night block of instruction we covered one handed dominant and non-dominant shooting, with techniques to help mitigate the obvious disadvantages of both.
Day 2 Night) The night block of instruction was hands down one of the most critical parts of the process for me as the reality of shooting with only the light you brought is not easy. We had a brief lecture on target identification in low light, with demonstrations using various students lights before hitting the line again. The focus on instruction was on single handed shooting while using a handheld light, as Steve called the bluff of many a student when they (and I) claimed we never carry a gun without a weapons light. Moving forward we began low light malfunction clearance, with techniques offered to keep the handheld light accessible but out of the way for working the immediate problem with the gun.
Day 3) Our final day of instruction started with a revisiting at the 25 yard range and B8 targets, working the marksmanship that Steve had been hitting at so hard for the past two days. Following this the wheels came off and we started pushing the distance back further and further until finally at the 50 yard range. To put it simply the mental aspect of knowing the distance and seeing the target shrink destroyed my last vestige of self respect in my shooting skills, but again this was brought into reality with Steve talking about measuring distances in a theater and other common places we go to every day. After lunch we started working on movement, with an emphasis on walking how you walk normally. The lack of ninja rolls and tactical side steps aside it was awesome seeing that good results on paper could still be achieved even when not statically locked in. Concluding day three we ran simulated crowds, working the chaos of running people and getting on target. The problem solving came out in the group of us students as curve balls were thrown and in a moment of redemption for me we made the correct decisions.
Gear) I ran two of the three days running a Glock 19 and Surefire XC1 from concealment in an RCS Morrigan while day two was run with the Glock 19 and a surefire X300U. Magazines were predominantly Magpul Glock Pmags. Clothing was a mix of Vertx and 5.11 with layered shirts to keep me warm in the cold desert mornings and from overheating in the very warm days. My handheld light was a Surefire P2X with RCS finger loop and reloads were done from a weak side Greenforce Tactical kydex magazine holder. On day three Steve discovered that I'd botched my front sight fiber install for the Dawson Sights on my carry gun. A 'smith in the class had me back in working order on the next break which helped tremendously. This was my failure, I knew this class was coming and should have had someone sanity check my gun, and looking back it held me back from learning while I was struggling to overcome self inflicted gear deficiencies. During this class I also handed out my Glock 17 to a friend who was struggling with his RMR'd gun and had reason to use sight adjustment tools on three different peoples guns. I'd brought a full swap of internal parts for my carry gun, plus two spare guns and spare holsters and I will continue to do so as the failure rates were astonishing.
- Dry fire every night after class. My first dry fire after getting home was when everything clicked and I wish I'd had that on night one not two days after class ended.
- Sanity check your gear! Have your buddy sanity check it. Having to fight through gear deficiencies when you should be learning SUCKS.
- Practice regimens make the shooter. Steve gave us a taste of perfection under instruction but that quickly deteriorates without a meaningful practice regimen to reinforce and build good repetitions.
- Fundamentals are the cornerstone to everything, without that the wheels come off the bus.