Sentinel Concepts Critical Handgun Employment Feb 5th-8th 2016


I'm on a boat!
Staff member
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.

Lessons Learned)

  1. 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.

  2. Sanity check your gear! Have your buddy sanity check it. Having to fight through gear deficiencies when you should be learning SUCKS.

  3. 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.

  4. Fundamentals are the cornerstone to everything, without that the wheels come off the bus.
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Sentinel Concepts Critical Handgun Employment AAR

Sentinel Concepts Critical Handgun Employment April 23 and April 24.

  • Class Location: Waverly, VA
  • Class Duration: 8am to 5pm day one and 9am to 630pm day two.

  • Weather: Saturday off and on rain. Sunday sunny and mid 70’s

  • Gear used
    • Gen 2 Glock 19 with XS Big Dot sights

    • Gen 3 Glock 17 with XS Big Dot Sights
The class:

The class started out with a safety brief, what to do if there is an emergency situation and what Steve’s expectations are for each student when it comes to safe handling of firearms. Steve informed all of us that we are the only ones that are responsible for the firearm and if he sees a safety rule being broken the student will be asked to leave. From there we go right into shooting. We lined up on the 25 yard line and took 10 shots at his Sentinel Concepts targets. These targets are the usual faced silhouette with a 4”x7” center mass box and a 3.5” circle in the head. Very quickly I learned that making hits (Inside the 4”x7” box. Lines don’t count) at 25 yards was going to be really tough, especially with XS Big dot sights. This was a humbling/demoralizing drill and we have not even been shooting for 10 minutes. From there Steve walked us through drills on the fundamentals for about half of the day. Steve demonstrated every drill that he asked us to do to not only show us how the drill should look but also to demonstrate to us that the standards he demanded were attainable. After lunch we were back at the 25 yard line to see if all the fundamental work had paid off. From there we moved into reloads (Tactical, Speed, and Emergency) and then the balance of speed and accuracy drills. All these drills were done from not only the holster but multiple positions (High ready, Low Ready etc.) These drills took us to the end of the day but not before we were shooting at 25 yards again. Day two started out at 25 yards… just like day one. From there we went on to perform drills for shooting on the move, multiple targets, malfunctions, and moving and shooting multiple targets. The day ended out at the 25 yard line again this time for a graded score. Over the two days I shot about 850 rounds of 9mm ammo.

Throughout the entire class Steve shared his thoughts on why he is teaching a technique. Also, after each drill we convened as a group to go over what we learned and our thoughts on the techniques/drills. This hot wash after each drill gave you time to take notes and to have discussions on what were the best aspects of the drills and techniques.

Major Takeaways:

This class was very humbling experience. I never thought before the class that I was an amazing and this class confirmed it. But most importantly about this class is it gave me the tools to work on and practice to becoming a better shooter! Everyone is a sniper at 7 yards and in. I need to get better at farther distances. Lastly I learned that everything boils down to Fundamentals. With bad fundamentals you will never make good, accurate, and consistent hits.

Final Thoughts:

Steve knows his craft and is not only a great shooter but an excellent instructor. He understands when to push up the pressure of each student and knows when to take it easy to make sure each student understands what they are doing. His teaching style was easy to understand and I learned a whole bunch.

This class was amazing. I took over 8 pages of typed notes and I am sure there were some things that slipped through the cracks. I learned so much and cannot recommend taking a class from Steve enough. I will be attending more classes from him (including CHE again) in the future.
Just finished the class last weekend. Had a great time not only in the class but shooting the shit with Fish, and some of the other dudes out here in Texas. I also got this fancy new Sentinel Concepts belt buckle since one particular shooter forgot how to count on the final qual. Lucky me!

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk


Regular Member
Adding my AAR to this thread.

Sentinel Concepts Critical Handgun Employment AAR

Location: Falcon Tactical Eagle Lake, TX
Dates: May 21-22 2016

Day one: Sunny and humid
Day two: Humid and wet with partial sun and scattered, light rain

Glock 19 with RM06. S3F barrel and Unity Tactical ATOM slide. Surefire X300U.
Holster: JM Custom Kydex AIWB, Raven Concealment Phantom, PERSEC Systems IWB mag carrier, BFG 10 speed double pistol mag pouch
Belt: Ares Gear Aegis Enhanced
Rounds fired: 1,023


Day 1:

After an introduction and learning a little about Steve and his background we went into the safety brief which included what to do in case of a GSW or other injury. Steve also went over how we were under “big boy rules” and violating critical safety rules will get you escorted out of the class. Basically don’t be an idiot and we won’t have a problem.

After that we went right into shooting which started out at the 25 yard line. Cold. No warm up no practice, just 25 yards and let me see what you got. The targets are the usual silhouette with a 4”x7” high center chest box and a 3.5” circle in the head. Lines don’t count!

After our humiliation (well at least for me) at 25 yards we went into going over aspects of shooting at various distances. The round count was low for the first part of the day. LOTS of instruction on the range. Steve was very good at not only explaining WHAT to do but also WHY to do it. Giving real world applications and explanations. After every drill while we were stuffing mags and hydrating, Steve would have each of us take a few seconds to talk about what we learned from the drill and what improvements we saw and also to identify what needs more work. It was basically a mini debrief after every evolution which really made the material stick.

Ready Positions. Steve went over some popular “ready positions” including low ready, high ready, high compressed ready, SUL and even briefly touched on the infamous temple index. He demoed each and gave some insight as to which would be best in a given situation. We discussed advantages and disadvantages to each and ran a series of drills at 7 yards using a different ready position every time. Throughout the rest of the class we’d switch up the ready positions that we covered to get repetitions with each. Steve explained how there’s not a one size fits all ready position. Situations dictate where the safest direction to point the muzzle is so it’s good to have options. Certain positions are more advantageous and are easier/ faster to present from. We got to experience this first hand throughout the day.

One student interaction that stood out to me was when one individual was having trouble with trigger control. To demonstrate the importance of a steady trigger press he stood facing the student (back to the target) while having the student hold the gun and look through the sights. Steve placed his finger on the trigger and told the student to keep the sights on target and let him know when the sights were aligned. Steve proceeded to empty a magazine into a 2” circle from 5 yards. This wasn’t done to show off but to demonstrate how a solid trigger press affects the gun. It really drove the point home.

Another drill we worked on was teaming up with the shooter next to you and taking their gun and magazine and “fidgeting” with it while their back was turned. We then handed the gun back and they were to fire a shot from 5 yards at a 2” circle. We were instructed to chamber a round at times and at others to leave the chamber empty while still inserting the mag. This was to help diagnose recoil anticipation and any trigger press issues. Since the shooter never knew if the gun was going to fire or not, this was a useful drill.

For the rest of the day we ran these and other drills at various yards and got a few “practice runs” of the 50 round qualifying drill that we would run at the end of day two.


Day 2:

Most of the day was spent building on what we had practiced and learned the day before. Again we started off cold at 25 yards running through a practice run of the 50 round qualifier. If you’ve never shot the drill it’s a very good gauge of your overall abilities as a shooter. It incorporates strict accuracy standards at distance and speed up close. There are time limits (which are very attainable) but accuracy is the main focus. You’re shooting at distances from 25 yards all the way down to 3. After shooting this drill I’ve decided to make it my warm up for all future practice sessions. It’s only 50 rounds and provides good feedback overall. I like it.

After the practice qual we went over how to feed the gun when needed. Tac reloads, speed reloads and reloads from slide lock. Steve went over the way he does it, WHY he does it and also provided real world application and most importantly the CONTEXT in which each is used. This is what really separates a teacher from an instructor. Anybody can demonstrate how to do each of these tasks. It doesn’t take anything special. But giving the proper context is what makes the difference and it’s where pertinent life experiences come into play. Steve was good at explaining why you might happen to perform that particular task as well as the best way to go about it.

We went over shooting stances and ways to mitigate recoil. One thing that helped me was rolling the shoulder blades into one another almost like I’m trying to pick something up with them. Keeping the elbows down and not locking them. Avoiding the “tactical turtle” thing with your head and slightly leaning forward.

Later we went on to malfunctions and how to clear them. Again he went over what he does and WHY he does it that way. He demoed each type of malfunction and how to clear it and then we got to practice it. We loaded up our mags mixing in 5 pieces of spent casings in random order mixed with live rounds to induce malfunctions. The goal was to try and get a lot of repetitions in on the different techniques. Several malfunctions were encountered so it was difficult to “game” it and know which type you’d get. You obviously knew one was coming but you didn't know which it would be. This was done from the 7 yard line and accuracy was still to be maintained to the 4x7” high center chest box.

One area that that I was lacking in was recoil management. Steve had me slightly adjust my grip so that my support hand thumb is higher up onto the slide itself, not pushing into it but getting high up on it as opposed to resting it on the frame just below the slide. This is how Steve shoots and after a few drills in this position I noticed less movement with my dot and the gun seemed to recoil more back and forth as opposed to flipping up. Just a little tweak was all it took.

After lunch we came back and did some reverse failure drills and also shooting multiples. Steve went over how to transition from target to target. The multiples drills were shot with one target on the left and then another 7-8 targets down the line (only 2 shooters were on the line for each drill.) A big takeaway for me was when switching targets that are more than a few yards apart, it’s faster to look where you want to shoot and THEN point the gun at it. Again after each evolution we had a mini debrief and discussed our takeaways. I’m saying it twice because I believe it was a valuable aspect of the class. It helps.

The last drill of the day was the dreaded qualification to determine top shooter. This was done by going shooter to shooter with a shot timer. We were allowed to miss 10 shots and still pass the qual. It should be noted that this passing rate will probably change soon so this info may be stale. The rules were simple. Fire the specified number of shots in the allotted time and don’t miss more than 10. Fastest shooter with the least amount of misses wins.

The main thing that was different from this class was the accuracy standards. Everyone is a badass at 7 yards but push yourself to 25 (or further) and shooters tend to fall apart. The standards are attainable but it does take work. I was able to identify a lot of areas that need work and was able to learn some good drills to incorporate into my own practice routines. Steve is an excellent instructor and an even better teacher. He does an excellent job of explaining the theory behind things and breaks it down into a digestible form. Very pleased with the class. It was money (and time) well spent.


Congrats to @RowdyYates for taking top shooter!

· Critical Handgun Employment (CHE) After Action Review (AAR)

· Student: Donald A. McCormick

· 5th- 7th February (3 Day class); Casa Grande Police Dept. Range 2720 South Isom Rd. Casa Grande, AZ.

· Weather: Sunny (exception Night Shoot) Warm and Dry

· Gear list:

§ Glock 19 (Sights: Trijicon HD’s) x6 Glock 19 Mags

§ Kydex 2 Mag Holster OWB, Galco Pocket Holster for another mag, and the rest resided in my pockets

§ 1500 rounds of ammo 115g 9mm

§ Flashlight: old Surefire 100ish Lumens of Incandescent light

§ Peltor Tactical Sport for ear protection

§ Revision Hellfly Polychromatic and Clear lenses for eye protection.


My expectations going in to this course where that we were going to work on fundamentals and then add complexity, such as timed drills, to our shooting and narrow down teaching points through our shortcomings in fundamentals or mindset. I train because I want to be a responsible, skilled, and armed citizen and I am always seeking knowledge. I had never taken a class from Steve Fisher before, had no clue what to expect specifically, but my expectations far exceeded what I had anticipated and came away with a lot to work on as a shooter.

What was taught and what I learned

The class stated with a safety brief and work on fundamentals and drills. The main discovery on day one was how Steve kept a relaxed atmosphere that added to an outstanding learning experience. The fundamental drills like 10 cold shots from 25 yards on a black bullseye target helped me realize that I needed to work distance pistol shooting and magnified the errors in my fundamentals. This was essential because the rest of the class was demanding the balance of speed and accuracy. The biggest learning points were repeated each day as Steve would say two phrases (that I am paraphrasing) “what is acceptable for you?” (referring to accuracy) and something to the effect of “everyone can go fast, but can they hit anything?” I learned that when Steve started giving us standards. The standards where all drills from different firing distances, most where 25 yards and went all the way to 3 yards with par times to meet and all shots had to be in an 8-12” circle on a silhouette and appropriate hit percentages. I brought a note pad and a pen to write down some learning points, but my note pad quickly turned in to writing the drills down and what the standards for them where. The most important thing I learned from doing these drills is that your mindset plays a huge role and being under the stress of a timer you naturally want to speed up and, for me, I missed many shots trying to go fast and had to slow myself down mentally to get hits.

The first day and most of the second day were dedicated to fundamentals and standard drills to reveal what your errors are in accuracy. Then we did Malfunction Mayhem, we loaded empty casings at random in to our magazines and did malfunction clearance drills. Steve taught that these will simulate some of the worst malfunctions. This helped with speed of malfunction clearances to get my gun working again and, most importantly, get my sights back on target and put rounds on target. The end of day 2 was all dedicated to night shooting and the use of flashlights, difference in the use of weapon lights vs Handhelds, handheld light techniques, the difference between flashlights, and target ID at night. I had learned that my light looked different at night and was only 100 lumens and incandescent light so it was a lot weaker of a light than what others were where using like all the other handheld lights people brought to class. I learned that you also do not “need” a 1000 lumen flashlight, but it helps a lot more for target ID. I had not done a lot of shooting at night and found that I need to train at night. The biggest leaning point I had during the night shoot was handheld flashlight positions Harries and Neck index techniques. I preferred the Neck index technique and that night shooting was something I needed to work on as well as shooting one handed. We then proceeded to do a Malfunction Mayhem at night witch added sensory deprivation to malfunction clearance drills

The final day we did some more standards, distance shooting out to 50 yards, shooting while moving, and drills about moving to get a clean shot when you add the chaos of crowds to the mix.

Teaching points I walked away with.

- Fundamentals, period, I need to continue to dry practice more ( draw, sight picture, sight alignment, trigger press, reloads)

- Trijicon HD’s are fast to pick up but they completely cover targets at distance. I have since been practicing with Dawson Precision black rear and either blacked front or red fiber optic front

- Shooting one handed with/without a flashlight in my other hand

- Having a higher lumen flashlight will seriously help with target ID especially at distance

- 124g and 147g 9mm bullets shoot better out of Glock barrels accuracy wise

- My rear sight was off center so accuracy was off by a considerable amount at distance (25yards +)

- Re-analyze my training requirements. I have a new set a of drills to practice to enhance my fundamentals and speed

- Emotional control while shooting is a huge variable that I neglected.


Critical Handgun Employment is a class you could take repeatedly and still walk away from the class with things to work on as a shooter. It gives you an introspective look at your own skills and equipment and puts them all to the test. Steve Fisher is an amazing instructor and fosters a great learning environment. I view myself and my skills with a handgun more critically after this class.
Did I miss class size? That's become a major consideration for me.

I really don't care what equipment you used, but the difference between 20 and 12 students can be huge.


Regular Member
It's all good. I used to not have the gear used posted in my AARs but I had a few folks ask about it on the past several ones so I decided to add it in there for the heck of it.

I'm not sure why I haven't thought to add class size. Definitely will from now on though.


Steve F

Sentinel Concepts
Did I miss class size? That's become a major consideration for me.

I really don't care what equipment you used, but the difference between 20 and 12 students can be huge.

class sizes are dependent on the teachers ability and the students
most of my classes run 12-14 students some are larger when i know the students coming in whom are mainly friends and industry partners
class sizes are dependent on the teachers ability and the students
most of my classes run 12-14 students some are larger when i know the students coming in whom are mainly friends and industry partners
It's your prerogative to limit your class size how you see fit, of course. Personally, I won't take any more classes with more than 14 people. I've done the 20 person classes and felt like I was just shooting the instructor's favorite drills rather than getting a lot of instruction and feedback. I'll spend my money where I think I'll get the best bang for the buck. For me, that's smaller classes even if the cost is higher.

I think I know what you mean about the friends/partners (presumably they are squared away and don't suck a lot of your time away from the rest of the students) but that only goes so far. They are on the line and presumably you aren't ignoring them all weekend, so your classes are a no go for me.

I don't expect everyone to share my opinion nor am I trying to convince anyone I'm right. (Maybe this is a good topic for a thread of its own.)
Sentinel Concepts Critical Handgun Employment

AAAR (Atypical After Action Review)

Date, Location, Size : September 9,10, 2016 – Hedgesville, WV . 19 Students

Gear : Glock 19 with Zev Tech Slide and RMR07, S3F barrel, Inforce APL, Sasquatch Mountain Tactical Mandalorian Appendix Holster, Phlster gen 2 mag caddy. Federal RTP 115 grain (0 light strikes, 0 malfunctions)

Be forewarned: This will not be a typical AAR, I am writing this review stream of consciousness and it will include my personal thoughts as they happened throughout the course and what my key takeaways were. Some important stuff is bolded for you lazy folks.

For those of you who are just reading this to decide whether or not to take the class and don’t want to read through my mind’s random wanderings… TAKE THE CLASS! FIND IT NEAR YOU AND SIGN UP ASAP! Good, now that that is out of the way I can start…

Day 1 –

We get to the range and start getting our gear, water, and ammo settled in to what would be its home behind the firing line for the next two days. Steve was there, chillin’ and talking to Barry (veteran and runs the Back Valley Creek Bow and Gun Club that was hosting the course.) At first glance, Barry’s age will try and convince you that he only knows how to operate a bolt-action rifle and a side-by-side. He lifted his shirt and was carrying a Glock 19 with an RMR appendix; don’t judge a book by its cover.

Safety briefing – super important, of course, but safety is pretty basic. Play by big boy rules or you’re gone, don’t do dumb shit and bad stuff won’t happen. Not to brag too much, but I’ve got some pretty solid trigger discipline, instilled in me by Jeff Bloovman of Armed Dynamics. He taught me to index my trigger finger on the ejection port at all times you’re not engaging a threat, it works, even when you trip and fall with a gun in your hand, which happens. Steve asks, “anyone here running appendix?” Uh oh, I thought, is that prohibidado? Three people raise their hands, he goes, “Cool, you can do that here but you know what you’re getting yourself into, be safe and take your time reholstering.”

Steve tells us to grab mags and get on the 25 yard line. 25 yards with a handgun? Yo Barry – did you bring that bolt-gun I stereotyped you for having earlier? 10 rounds slow fire at a modified and realistic sized chest box. I tried to run my own race but realized I was checking out other people’s targets because I was completely unfamiliar with 25 yard handgun shooting. No excuses – that’s a defect in my training plan. Noted. We get up to check our hits (for the good majority of us that meant our misses) and I noticed my group wasn’t too bad, but it was left. I zeroed my RMR for 10 yards, but wasn’t a consistent enough shooter to confirm positively at 25 yards at my range. Being honest with yourself and your own abilities is the key to progressing. Scott “Jedi” came up to me and told me to throw my dot 5 clicks to the right.

Who is this dude telling me what to do? I’ve seen him floating around the interwebz with some solid skills, on Primary and Secondary modcasts, and Steve vouches for him – I’ll take the candy from this stranger. I went back to hydrate, jam mags, and adjust my RMR 5 clicks to the right. Turned out, Jedi used the force and was dead on with his recommendation for zeroing my RMR, despite the far from ideal ammo I was shooting.

Next, Steve got us all grouped together and brought up the only girl in the class for his ball and dummy demonstration. Steve taught us about proper trigger control and sight alignment and emphasized the simplicity of the concept, yet also the ease at which you can totally botch perfect sight alignment with a bad trigger press. She did great, barely fidgeting on the click of the empty chamber. I volunteered to go next, knowing that I tend to “flinch”. Steve asked me why I think I flinch when I pull the trigger before I did the drill in front of everyone, and I answered honestly, because legend has it that true Yeti’s can smell bullshit from a mile away. I told him, and everyone in the class, my deepest darkest shooting secret. “When the gun goes off and makes the bang and fireball, it scares me. I don’t like the noise and the explosion.” Besides immediately being stripped of my young – man – card in front of the rest of the class, I needed to be honest with myself, because, once again, that’s how you overcome these things.

I go up there and give Steve my gun and he hands it back to me to take a shot. No round in the chamber and I flinch/dip the gun down horribly. My anticipation of the recoil was embarrassing. Whatever, he did it again. Then I did it again, dipped the gun down with atrocious trigger control on the click. Third times the charm, right? Nope, not for me, flinched again. Wow, this ended up so much worse than I had thought it was going to from an embarrassment standpoint, but it showed me how much I really needed to focus and concentrate.

One shot at a time, one loud bang and scary fireball at a time. Didn’t realize it then, but this was yet another example of Steve’s ever present teaching point of “Compartmentalization of task, do one thing at a time and then move on to the next task.”

We partnered up and ran these trick drills to work on our trigger control. It certainly worked for me. After we regrouped to talk about what we learned from that drill, I told everyone that I was able to concentrate and minimize my “flinch”, which Steve more appropriately labeled, my “seismic activity.” This was a pretty solid joke for the rest of the course.

At our next break, Jedi was walking around and approached me, he said, “Hey, I have something for you to try that might help you with your stance and controlling that flinch.” He had me hold out my arms like I was holding the gun and then he smacked my hands to simulate the recoil impulse. Then, he faked to hit my hands and I dipped forward in anticipation yet again. We repeated this with the same results. He then told me to stand straight and begin to take a step. Mid- step he told me to stop and leave my foot where it was. We repeated this drill with dramatically different results this time, even when he faked the hit, I didn’t lunge forward. What did Jedi teach me besides a ton of useful marksmanship skills? Trust, but verify. I didn’t believe in his hokey religion and ancient weapon skills… Yet… I stood tall, began to take a step and then stopped in a natural, comfortable position. He hit my hands to simulate the recoil and then faked one, and I didn’t flinch, the stance made a huge difference immediately in my shooting.

After that, we worked on cadence drills. In between drills, I was able to ask Steve and Jedi about specific shooting techniques such as grip, arm extension, etc. Steve told me to use the palm of my support hand and press it up against the gun tighter. That made a positive difference in the next round of shooting. Then, Steve told me to grip tighter with my pinky of my firing hand. Why in the world had I been holding the gun my entire life like a Brit drinking tea? Jedi came through and helped me with my arms. Before, I had my arms at full extension and this was not only fatiguing, but introduced a rapid shake in the red dot which got worse when I went to pull the trigger. Jedi had me raise the gun to my head, unturtle my shoulders, relax, and let my arms move slightly with the recoil. Think of it like a Barrett 50 with a gliding barrel, it works. When Steve came back over, he showed me how much of a difference the slightest change in my support hand finger placement introduces into your sight picture… This stressed the importance of consistency in grip and draw stroke. Consistency.

We took our lunch break and then returned to the 25 yard, 10 shot drill. With my new techniques employed and compartmentalization of task, I was able to perform much better than before. Steve then went over brain shots, and why that’s a pretty important and a realistic target to aim for, within a reasonable distance. We shot some faces, then we moved on to controlled pairs. Emphasis on the control part. I noticed that my pairs were really just two separate shots while trying to minimize the split time between them and 3 sight pictures. Double tap myth, busted. Funny thing to mention here was that when we all grouped up to talk about our mistakes and what we learned after these, one guy in the class said, “I felt shaky.” Steve asked him what he ate for lunch, he responded with coffee. He also hadn’t drunk any water all day. YES, I thought, I’m free! I’m no longer going to be made fun of for my “seismic activity” of trigger pull flinch. That wasn’t the case, but at least I wasn’t the only target anymore. The jokes were all in good fun and in good taste, the humor helped contribute to a great learning environment. But really, at lunch break, drink some water guys, don’t hook yourself up to an amphetamine IV, Jack….

We organized a crew to go to Outback Steakhouse for dinner for some beer and beef. It was cool, waitress started out a 5 but after our Yuengling’s, I think I tipped her as if she was a true 7…

Day 2 –

We revisited the 25 yard standard, the improvements were evident, all across the class. Seriously, it looked like an entirely different group of shooters. We learned some different types of reloads and when each is acceptable/preferred and ran a quick competition among the students for reload speed and ACCURACY. Accuracy and accountability of shots was always more important than speed of skills, fine tuning of techniques. During the competition, I fumbled with my cover garment and had a flashback to my Sage Dynamics course with Aaron Cowan, where he told me, “Dude, do whatever works for you and feels comfortable, don’t overthink it.” In the Instagram era of today, you see in videos all the time people hear the shot timer beep, bobble their draw and just say, “Oh, I messed up, I’m gonna redo it.” Problem is, in real life, you can’t ask the bad guy to pause while you try and get a clean, instacool draw. Well, I guess you could, but unless you guys hit it off and exchange instagram accounts and start following each other, it probably won’t. So, back to MY mag fumble during the competition. Screw it, just gotta work through it. Jedi saw the nasty tangle I was in with my cover government and spare mag carrier, but I remained calm and fought through it, and won the competition. Calm is contagious, so is panic.

Ready positions, low ready and high ready. Different applications for both, but each have their own advantages and disadvantages. Use of the ready positions is situation dependent and you must use your environmental cues/situation to determine what is ideal, appropriate, or even possible for the scenario you find yourself in. You don’t choose the time and the place. Take the class, Steve will explain to you how ready positions will change based on lighting, building structure, and the task at hand. Steve told us that a high ready position usually leads to natural extension of the gun, and at that height, a face shot; the ultimate problem solver.

At the end of the day we ran Steve’s real qualification under his stress-inducing tool, the timer. Not having much familiarity with shot timers and gauging my time, I knew it would be my downfall and would just have to let the gun and the sights tell me how fast I could go. I knew however, that regardless of time and distance for each different part of the qualification, my draw would need to be fast and consistent so that I wasn’t leaving anything on the table there. Steve is very strict with his accuracy standards for good reason and therefore even shots on the lines are out. Halfway through the qual, Steve called me “linemaster” and this added an additional level of stress to the qual for me, because I couldn’t see my hits on the line. I have 20/10 vision which is basically like X-ray vision besides being able to see through people’s clothing and I couldn’t even see my line hits. I guess it’s Yeti’s sixth sense. After getting closer, I saw my line hits and I had immediately assumed that I was no longer in the running for winning Top Shooter. But, I continued to run my own race. I ignored the speed at which people next to me were shooting, and only shot as fast as I could be confident in my sight picture and trigger press. When we scored the quals, I had 3 shots on the line and 2 shots touching just on the guys fingers about 1 inch out of the box. No excuses, that’s down 5. I made every shot within his time restrictions, and ended up winning Top Shooter by having the best accuracy and completion of his qualification. I won a dope Sentinel Concepts Aegis buckle and the guys over at Ares Gear are building my belt right now, I’m pumped. The stuff I learned in the two days at Steve’s Critical Handgun Employment go further than handgun skills and marksmanship techniques, there’s a bunch of no bullshit real-life takeaways that apply to every aspect of life, it’s all still sinking in.

Huge thanks go out to the other students in the class for being safe and smart and to Barry for hosting the class.

Another giant thanks to Jedi for all of his help with my shooting techniques and guidance about hand to hand combatives.

And lastly, an enormous thanks to Steve for driving 9 hours to WV to teach us all this stuff and being willing to share his knowledge and opinions with us.

Until next time – “Seismic Mark”
I have taken many classes over the years from some famous and not-so-famous instructors. My first training was with Jeff Cooper in the very first class he taught at Gunsite. I find Steve Fisher to be one of a very few instructors that I place in the "master class." Why? He has no time for bull shit and gimmicks. He has a down to earth style and he "gets it." He can distill the training down in its simplest form. Regardless of class size, Steve takes his time with everyone.
I have hosted his classes at the Back Creek Valley Range and I always learn something from the students and Steve every single day.

Steve knows his craft, keeps up with changes and can actually impart his concepts to the students. The rest is up to them. I have tracked several guys that have attended his training and I can see the improvement over time. However, you must put in the work in order to improve.

Steve F

Sentinel Concepts
It's your prerogative to limit your class size how you see fit, of course. Personally, I won't take any more classes with more than 14 people. I've done the 20 person classes and felt like I was just shooting the instructor's favorite drills rather than getting a lot of instruction and feedback. I'll spend my money where I think I'll get the best bang for the buck. For me, that's smaller classes even if the cost is higher.

I think I know what you mean about the friends/partners (presumably they are squared away and don't suck a lot of your time away from the rest of the students) but that only goes so far. They are on the line and presumably you aren't ignoring them all weekend, so your classes are a no go for me.

I don't expect everyone to share my opinion nor am I trying to convince anyone I'm right. (Maybe this is a good topic for a thread of its own.)
and thats based on the quality of the instructor you choose and level of class
mine range from 12-14-20 shooters pending what class


I'm on a boat!
Staff member
Sentinel Concepts Critical Handgun Employment 11-12 March 2017

Background- I'm including a background so you understand my frame of reference and what I'm coming into the class expecting, and have an idea of what hangups I have. Like most people I "grew up with guns", hunting and sport shooting. I joined the Navy in 2009, and have had the pleasure of shooting more than a few times under instruction of some squared away folks in the Navy. In February 2016 I attended my first civilian class, Sentinel Concepts Critical Handgun. My AAR for that class can be found here Fast forward a year, with approximately 10k rounds down through rifle, shotgun and pistol, and I knew I needed a professional reassessment of where I'd grown to and further guidance for what's next.

Gear- I shot my EDC, Fauxland Special 001, a Glock 19 with RMR06, RCS Freya, S3F Barrel, TBRC Micro Comp, Overwatch Precision FALX, Gripforce Adapter, Surefire X300U, and finger grooves removed. Reloads were managed with an RCS Copia and GFT mag pouch, belt was Mean Gene Barbarian, and holster a Keroman V2 from CNC Holsters. The GFT mag pouch was only used to keep more mags on my person, all reloads were run out of the Copia. The gun was fed 124 grain Speer Lawman and magazines were predominantly Magpul Glock PMAGs.

Training Day 1- We started the day (just like 2016) with a safety brief, introductions and run down of prep in case of medical emergency. With admin out of the way we started with 25 yard hits on Fishers new and improved targets. The hit box is a 4.75 by 7 inch rectangle, something that a lot of the class was ill prepared for. From there it was a refresher on fundamentals, utilizing sights/triggers, reloading and the context for why and when, and a bit of diagnostics for shooters struggling. Things quickly ramped up moving into "malfunction mayhem" and Fishers take on fixing problems with the gun. After a break for lunch we moved into strong and weak hand only work including drawing with the off hand only, and then immediately after we went into off hand only, one handed reloads. This was my first experience with using only the weak hand and the variety of methods to gain access to the gun with the off hand, which left my inner Fudd screaming "that's not safe". Repeatedly I walked off the line after running a drill, knowing it had been 100% safe, and needing to walk through the actions taken step by step and really reiterate to myself both why it was safe and that my discomfort with this is holding up my progression as a shooter. Steve was quick to explain to us why these skills mattered, and present it in a manner that acknowledged the risk but gave the students all the necessary tools to mitigate it. We finished the day with a drill called the "Iron Cross", reinforcing the ability to shoot a full 360 degrees without moving with strong and weak hands, while managing muzzle orientation. The context of this was reinforced on the drive home that evening, as my shooting partner and I discussed working the angles of the truck and how we could each engage nearly a full 360 excluding where the other blocked line of sight. The RMR absolutely rocked at this drill, as when I couldn't get a full extension of the gun due to body limitations the dot was still easily picked up and I could still deliver the kind of accuracy demanded. We finished day one with a run of the new and improved standards, the bar with which proficency is gauged. Changes from last year are a reduced round count at distance and incorporation of strong and weak hand only shooting. The times for his standards are easily attainable as long as a baseline proficiency is there before enterting the class.

Training Day 2- Training Day 2 was more drill focused, starting with the "Flow Drill", encouraging keeping the gun moving and keeping the mind open for any and all shots on a bad guy that present themselves. A breakdown on retention shooting led into "Around the world", focused on shooting and working the gun from standing, kneeling, all flavors of prone and then back up. The added bonus of this drill is extra reps working muzzle discipline as you move up down and all around. The remainder of the day was spent with a variety of movement drills, laterally and towards/away from the targets. We paired up to run two man drills, reinforcing a need to open your eyes to more than just the target and you, and look towards where your running partner is moving and how the two of you need to interact to insure safety and efficiency. Much of day two focused less on performance "out of the holster" and more on performance once the gun is in play. There was a recurring theme during the class debriefs post drill that as the stress level and tasks were piled up we stopped focusing on shooting and let the unconscious competence kick in. This tied in heavily with the continued lectures on emotional control, that as we got task saturated we needed to be able to handle the complex things with the thinking part of our brain while we let the easy things be handled on autopilot. Fixating and worrying led to over thinking which brought everything back into thinking brain territory where it's more prone to failure. We finished TD2 with standards run individually, for time, with 3 of the 16 students meeting both the time and accuracy bars. I was not one of those three, next year I will be.

My Takeaway- There were over 365 days between my first class and my second, in that 365 I decided to pursue more regular range visits and dry fire vice seeking out another class. The results showed on paper though, I was in the top 1/3rd of the class and for me that's an important data point for planning further training and my development as a shooter. Unconscious competence isn't universal, while there are tasks I can perform well there are a lot of less practiced tasks that are now added into the rotation for both dry fire and incorporation into the drills I run at the range. Critical Handgun really is all about the critical skills, not giving you 10,000 reps at something and it's up to the shooter to bring it home and incorporate it. Further I need to begin incorporating No Shoot targets into my live fire as they dramatically change the pace that people want to go at. Watching other students go from full "burn it down, I wanna go fast Ricky Bobby!" to hesitant and hyper aware of their surroundings as consequences to mistakes are added is eye opening, and that level of seriousness is something I want to keep in my range sessions. Lastly, the RMR on my gun paid for itself today. I love shooting at stupid distances with a 9mm Glock and the pause between shot and ding of steel, but the real world reasoning for the RMR showed during this class as the availability of a conventional full extension and sight picture was taken away. Within civilian/off duty context (my lane) the RMR gives me higher hit probability where I interact with the most amount of people, in the car. Even when presented with information I'd heard from Steve before I picked up new tidbits and with the increase in my skills a refinement of "the truth" happened. The new information, the focus on techniques and the real world reasoning and the boistrous and fun manner that it is presented in made this class an absolute winner for me and I look forward to another opportunity to train with Fisher and all the students there that day.

Noteworthy Quotes- "There's no advanced shooting, there's fundamentals and tactics.", "All we've done today is work fundamentals and I've given you some techniques. Tactics are made when you look at techniques available and problems encountered.", "Teach what you learned, not what you were taught."

Lastly, this video was taken at the class.
Sentinel Concepts Critical Handgun 11-12 March 2017

Location: Cowtown Range, Peoria AZ
Weather: AM High 60's PM Low to Mid 90's. Full Sun
Class Size: 14

Equipment: Gen 4 Glock 17 with Tru Glo TFX Sights, Bravo Concealment holster and dual mag pouch, Winderness Tactical Instructor Belt, Oakley Eye Pro and Peltor Tactical Electronic Ear Pro, Magpul Pmags (13).

Ammunition: 856 Rounds of 115g Speer Lawman TMJ


This was my first class with Steve and I was not quite sure what to expect. Would he be an egotistical douche? Would I be surrounded by go fast fan boys all day? I have no military, law enforcement, or competition experience. I carry a gun every day to protect myself and my family. I chose this course because I really wanted to separate the wheat from the chafe in what I had already learned and hone my skills into something practical, logical, and useable. I wasn't looking for flash.

I can say, unequivocally, I got exactly what I wanted. Steve is the real deal. Over two days, he not only refined the "how" in what we were doing, but gave us input as to the "why". His standards are high, and failure is not brushed aside. If you are looking for an ego stroke, this isn't the class. The students, to the person, were absolutely first rate. I enjoyed my time spent with every single one of them. Not a giant douche in the bunch.

Day 1:

Day 1 began with Steve's signature 25 yard cold start. Most of us in the class were already off to a shaky start. We then moved into malfunction drills using empty cases to induce stoppages. The most challenging part of the day came next with single hand and "dumb" hand shooting and reloading. (Amateur tip: if you are a fat guy like me, it's time to lose some weight. This block of instruction was a giant pain in the ass with a gut impeding access to the opposite side of my body.). All of this culminated with the Iron Cross drill which incorporated all manners of engaging targets with both strong and weak hand from different alignments to the target. Afterwards, Steven went on to explain why theirs would be beneficial in the real world. You can't always choose where you or your target are going to be standing (or sitting). We ended he day with a practice run through the 50 round qualification so we could see what tomorrow would bring.

Day 2:

We worked on shooting from retention. For some, the idea of firing their weapon with their hand in front of the pistol was unnerving. However, once it was demonstrated that by using a pectoral index on your draw, that there was minimal safety concern, those fears were assuaged. Next up was engaging targets from the ground in a variety of different positions. This also included transitioning between positions with the weapon unholstered. This was all building up to what we would be doing later in the day.
After lunch, we started in on movement with other students. We employed shooting steel while running a lateral course with another student running the same course in the opposite direction. All the work we had done previously to be aware of our muzzle while changing positions really paid off on this one. The final big drill of the day was sort of a bounding exercises where four students were moving up and down range engaging targets at the same time. During these drills all of the overthinking went out the window and we fell back on what we had learned and practiced.

The day culminated in our final qualification which only 3 people managed to pass. Final thoughts were exchanged and we were on our way home.

Take Aways:
1. Dude, get in better shape.

2. My simple mostly stock gun ran just fine. In fact, some of the more heavily modded pistols had problems throughout class.

3. Step outside your comfort zone. Try something new. You will thank yourself.

4. I learned a ton of great new skills and exercises that I can practice over the next year. I will definitely be returning when Steve comes back next year.

5. You can't have enough pre loaded mags.

6. This class was worth every minute and dollar invested.