It is common that as something evolves or changes over time, certain elements and fundamentals get lost or left behind in those changes. Firearms ownership has increased over the past decade for a variety of reasons. The desire to do more with firearms for protection, competition, and professional purposes had less to an explosion in the firearms training industry. Training courses geared towards defensive use of firearms with repetitions of drills with high round counts for maximum terminal ballistic effectiveness at common self defense environment distances are easy to find and priced according to whatever ones budget may be. Fast paced competitions such as 3-gun has drawn people towards an exciting avenue of shooting fast and often. But the attraction to these means of ballistic delivery also is part of a shift in skills and fundamentals, and an unintended consequence is that certain skills and fundamentals once considered to be a true mark of a shooter are being left behind and forgotten.
The inaugural Sentinel Concepts Practical Urban Carbine class I attended at the Alliance Police Departments training facility in Ohio on June 11-12 is Steve Fisher’s goal to bring back some of those elements. The class was billed at focusing on targets at ranges from 100-300 yards, and also listed sling work and shooting positions with supported shooting and a night shoot as part of the curriculum. The equipment list required was a simple one with requirements of a rifle, basic and standard safety equipment used at other classes, five working magazines, and a minimum of 1000 rounds of ammunition.
T1 was forecasted to be humid and in the 90’s. Steve apparently has a curse in that it also will somehow rain at every class he teaches at Alliance, and the curse was not broken on this trip. While the storm was a light one, the rain was a welcome respite from the heat of the day. Joe Weyer of Weyer Tactical is the APD Sgt assigned to the range, and he made sure that people had a solid way to stay hydrated by making up a 10-gallon cooler of Camelbak Elixir, also known as Camel-Crack. Every break I made an effort to fill a couple of bottles to suck down on while on the line. It’s important to keep mentally sharp to take and absorb the information coming at you from Steve as he teaches and from your own performance. Lack of hydration is a huge contributing factor to fatigue and safety violations, in my experience.
The class was made up of seventeen students, six of whom travelled from Wisconsin (The rest seemed to be from the Ohio area.), and of those seventeen, four were LE. Some were prior military, and one was a current National Guardsman. Carbines were across the board, from a 10.5-inch gun with a 4x ACOG, to a few with Aimpoints, fewer with a magnifier, and several with some form of 1-4 or 1-6 variable optic. There was one poor soul that looked like the good idea fairy visited it a number of times over the course of a few evenings, as it was a mix-match of electrical tape, wires, and an odd end cap on the weaponlight that was intended as a diffuser.
The classroom portion of the course was short and sweet, with only the necessary introductions, the safety brief, and a short lecture from Steve on his philosophy of the environments around us and how carbine employment is important. He spoke of thinking of things as containers and zones. For example, the container can be the environment inside the big box store that an active shooter event is occurring in. With that, he then identified three zones we need to be aware of. First is the perimeter zone. The second is the Functional Zone, which is at a distance where a lot of your carbine work takes place, and the last is the Critical zone, which generally so close to a threat that everything you do with your carbine will be an immediate need. Steve spoke about Emotional Control, and how understanding it and controlling it can affect your shooting and performance. This one was one of a couple real light bulb moments for me. There was a short discussion on zeros, and everyone except one was already running a 50 yard zero, with the latter running a 100 yard zero based on information he had from previous training. Very few were actually running a 50/200 yard zero, however, and the importance of physically verifying and tweaking your zero at 200 was emphasized.
Range time started soon after. We set up on the 50 yard line to confirm zeros, and moved back to the 200 to fine tune. Then it was back to the 300 to confirm the drops. The group was divided into two relays, and the walking time for each relay to go back and forth meant that there was going to be some down time and a very slow pace. It was a welcome pace due to the heat, but in the future it might be worth having enough target stands for everyone, shoot two relays, and walk down together to check targets to save time overall.
The morning ended with instruction on prone body mechanics and use of magnified optics. While it wasn’t a class designed to sell scopes, it was one where the advantages and weaknesses of red dot optics and magnified optics were demonstrated over and over. Part 2 starts with the afternoon.