Sentinel Concepts, Handgun Shoot house March 28-29, 2015

AAR Sentinel Concepts, Handgun Shoot House
March 28-29, 2015
Location: Alliance, Ohio PD Training Facility
Instructor: Steve Fisher
Assistant Instructor: Ollie Schumacher

Course description: Single person live fire shoot house focusing on problem solving skills for home defense. Daytime, as well as night time, low light scenarios. Students are required to bring a pistol (preferably with a wml) or hand held light, 300 rounds of ammo, holster, body armor, ear/eye protection, chem lights, notepad.

Students consisted of a mixed background of LE, military veterans and civilian contractors. The class had a wide range of experience in training. Some familiar faces that I trained with before. Some IDPA/USPSA, 3 gun competitors, others new to firearms training. I've studied basic and advanced pistol (from concealment) with FPF training (John Murphy) and PFT training (Pat Goodale, Rob Tackett, Wayne Fisher). This was my first time to ever train in a shoot house facility and under low light conditions.

Goals: The primary goal was to learn how to effectively respond to hostile home invasions, especially in the dark. Be able to positively apply the lessons learned from Steve and the training exercises to improve my personal home defense plan. Secondary goals were to give an honest assessment of my bedside pistol (first time training with it in class), wml and test performance capabilities, especially weaknesses in my ability or mechanical failures that would be devastating in a real fight.

Gear: Glock 30s with a surefire ultra wml, Blackbeard Tactical kydex holster, HSGI pistol taco mag pouches, velocity systems PC scarab light, level 4 ceramic plates

TD1: Class started at 0800. After getting our personal bios and introductions out of the way, paperwork sorted out, safety briefing, Steve and Ollie brought us out to the square range to make ready and run some basic drills, present our draw strokes, weapon handling, muzzle discipline, manipulation, standard shooting, strong/weak hand only shooting. I was already getting disappointed, experienced 2 FTF's (which I later determined was a specific magazine) not user error. Also shooting inconsistent groups from poor trigger control. I make no excuse, I admit not obtaining enough training time in the past couple months. And my overall performance was unsatisfactory. I didn't feel good about it, but it was necessary to have it happen while training rather than fail miserably when my life depends on it.

We didn't take long on the square range, headed back to the barn where Steve assigned us numbers, order flow of how the training runs would be executed followed by a debrief of each run, performance analysis, questions, concerns, addressing multiple critical errors made by myself and other students. Steve did a great job explaining and in many instances debriefing us out in the house of how to properly execute the specific scenario. Steve emphasized "breaking down each room piece by piece". IE, 80/10/10, prioritizing primary, secondary (hard corners) and tertiary areas (dark space). It took many of us a while to get used to this. And I was guilty as charged of approaching way too fast. This led to prematurely breaking the threshold line and exposing myself to attack. Steve pointed out the need to slow down in order to compartmentalize the room. Solve the bigger problem by dividing it into smaller ones. Night runs were far more difficult, and mentally strenuous, failure points were reached. We ended approximately at 2400 hours. Completed 7 runs, 5 day, 2 night.

TD2: 0900. We went straight into training runs. I took too long at a door and completely forgot about the 4 way intersection hallway exposing my back. Steve debriefed us out in the house, showed us the correct way to approach that problem. Proper positioning of the body to open the door while maintaining eyes on the hallway if additional threats appeared. I advanced unnecessarily into the big room, exposing myself to dangerous angles.

My last 2 runs of the day were better. I performed with more patience, able to positively ID threats/non threats, and slow down for proper sight alignment/trigger control. I was able to improve my shot placement on targets and follow through with ensuring each problem was solved before proceeding to the next one. Reminded myself to breath, maintain focus in order to thoroughly break down the room. We ended at roughly 1600. Completed 4 runs. Did a final walk through of the house to clean up debris, took our class photo, debriefed in the barn, received our certificates, said our goodbyes.

Lessons learned:

My biggest failure occurred (TD1) on a run where I did not identify my target. I pushed the door too hard, got distracted when it shut on me where a "non-threatening" person appeared. I didn't look at the hands, immediately focused on the front sight and shot 3 center mass. Turned out, simulated person was holding a cell phone. Bad shoot. Very bad shoot. Of course I felt like an A-hole, hated myself for rushing and realized the severity of the situation if this was real life. Somebody I loved, family member, or friend. I used this awful feeling to be more focused on my following runs.

Second serious failure (first low light run TD1), upon approaching a hallway, I was too close to the wall, a hostile appeared, I got one shot off, followed by a FTF on that same bad magazine. I started doing remedial action still in front of the threat. This was followed by multiple curse words directed at myself and frustration afterwards for not solving the problem simply by shifting right, out of line of sight and into cover.

Other mistakes made, not using angles properly, walking into exposed areas. Giving my back unnecessarily. Pushing or pulling the door too hard. This was remedied by locating hinges on doors in order to smoothly gain access into rooms and avoid the common occurrence of the door closing back on you. Hugging the wall too much and not properly using cleared space to my advantage when approaching corners or hallways. Taking too much time (first run of TD2) in intersections and exposed my back to the hallway. Breaking the threshold line without clearing the left and right corners. In my notes from all my runs, I noted "slow down". Towards the end, "Slow the F--- down!!!". Steve repeated something to us that I tattooed in my head. "Why rush to your death?"

My shooting fundamentals under stress were clearly in need of attention. I had too many wounding shots or misses, shoulder hits, gut shots, etc. I was clearly rushing shots and not following through with my shot placement. And of course, towards the end of TD1, the one time I did concentrate to get solid hits was the unlucky bastard with the android phone. Eventually I cleared my mind of all f--- ups, slowed down and remembered my fundamentals (after positive ID), which improved my performance by the end of TD2.

Another observation. Breathing. Because of adrenaline, stress, normal respiratory function was paralyzed. I was not receiving enough oxygenated blood. From our last night run (TD1), after I re-holstered, I gasped for air like I was drowning. Not good. I noted more self induced fatigue simply for not breathing. Not optimal conditions when getting into a fight. From the start of TD2, I took deep breathes before moving on to the next door, corner, hallway. There were immediate positive improvements in decision making, moving with more confidence, as well as better shot placement on target.

From the critical errors made, I forced myself to think, slow down, approach cautiously, slice the pie more fluidly, be more methodical when breaking down a room. The previous failures of TD1 definitely motivated me to demand improvement for TD2. I had to stop the brain from painting pictures of the unknown before actually seeing it. Properly identifying threats (looking for hands, empty? Armed/unarmed?) and slowing down for better shot placement/proper trigger control when engaging. I even made sure to manage my ammo properly and tac reload without exposing myself before approaching the next problem. (A good habit I learned from Pat Rogers, always manage your ammo!).

Also, Ollie did a great job as AI, providing tips and reminding us to make ready, make sure mags are topped off, press check on deck, and taught me something new. How to press check in the dark, feel for the round in the chamber. Good habits that I will exercise from now on.
In conclusion:

What I got from Steve's handgun shoot house, his no BS honest to God criticism, taking note of my serious failures, watching others on the catwalk. I learned you can't control what you can't see. You must be mindful of angles and respect the geometry in the fight. Moving with purpose and minimizing exposure. Maintain 360 degree SA at all times. Putting the breaks on the threshold line and making sure to clear every unknown area before advancing. This got me thinking about utilizing knowledge of your own household, placement of furniture, corners to your own advantage. Where to have a safe room. How to use angles, dead space, obstacle placement (furniture), hardening strategic locations. Having a defensive position to call police and wait. Exfil routes if I must.

As for the current bedside, I'm content (for now) with the performance of this pistol and was able to identify a single magazine causing FTF's, but of course I plan on training more, re-establishing fundamentals and tightening my groups/improving accuracy. I'm more than satisfied with my surefire ultra and can finally confirm the reliability of it personally.

As Steve said, this is just the tip of the iceberg, and I have already been thinking on how to apply lessons learned to my personal home defense plan. I will take handgun shoot house again in the near future and I highly recommend this class to anyone serious about defending their loved ones.

Finally, Thank you Steve for teaching us with sincere brutal honesty. You sir are awesome. Getting cursed at, berated, mentally challenged and pushed to failure was necessary in order for me to pinpoint weaknesses, areas that I am determined to improve. In my case, learning did occur and I'm blessed to be a student of this necessary life skill.

Also many thanks to Ollie for coaching me on deck, Joey and the facility staff for allowing us civilians to train there, the LE and other students who let me pick their brains in between runs, Bill and JW for taking pictures/video. I am humbled to be learning from and surrounded by exceptionally brave men and women that are passionate about training. The lessons learned are priceless. For all currently serving our communities, still doing this extremely dangerous job, as well as retired military and LE that risked their lives in these situations, I am truly grateful to you all! Thank you for your service and God bless!

Stay safe all, keep on training and I can't wait to be back outside again (hopefully in warmth... yeah it was a bit cold out there on TD1).

Clarence (Big Larry)