Monday, November 10, 2014

AAR Sentinel Concepts Shoot House September 20-21, 2014

First, I want to thank all the people who supported this class.  The Alliance Police Department has an awesome facility and was very welcoming and helpful.  Joe Weyer was an incredible liaison and facilitated all of our needs. I also want to thank Matt from Firelance Media for taking some awesome pictures throughout the course. He has an excellent eye and captured some amazing scenes. Finally I cannot say enough good things about Steve Fisher of Sentinel Concepts and his AI this course, Tatiana Whitlock.  Fantastic team, and the knowledge they passed on to the class was phenomenal.

Coming from a high-end military background, I thought I knew pretty much all there was to know about CQB.  I could not have been more wrong.  The intricacies of individual clearing techniques are far different than those used by military and LEO units.  In fact, working as an individual I was forced to utilize techniques that were in direct conflict with everything I was ever taught, but we will get to that. Steve and T showed us all new ways of not only working in a house but also thinking to solve problems as they present themselves.

This unique course progressed as a traditional class would.  Single room single-threat, single room multi-threat and so on.  Training was presented in a scenario-driven format which force you to take in everything and evaluate the situation. In this line of thinking, a traditional “no shoot” target may in fact be a threat. Each piece was a new problem to be solved. The 360 degree field of fire gave a unique opportunity to place targets in unusual places. In most cases, with myself included, this caused the shooter to miss threats. I found myself looking in corners but not “seeing” into them. As Steve put it, I was moving faster than I could process information. Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem when you have a team behind you because the #2 man would simply pick it up. I had a hard time picking up on this concept at first, but after a few runs I settled down and started to clean up. This was true of my marksman ship as well. Inside a house it is a common trend to throw rounds at a target under the mentality that it is “only 10 yards or so.” While true, a lot can happen within 10 yards. I had one run where I pumped six rounds into a target and not one was a true lethal hit. There was a trend appearing: I needed to slow down. Then it all started to click. After that, I started working on head shots. Not to show off, but to force myself to focus on a smaller target and go back to fundamental-based shooting techniques. This is a huge part of Steve Fisher's teaching style. There is no such thing as an advanced shooting class. There are only fundamentals and dealing with shapes.

After dinner, we returned to the house and started working on low light scenarios. We also decided to stay with pistols and not introduce long guns into the mix just yet.  The progression was similar to the daytime training we had just accomplished, only this time more condensed.  We basically “re-warmed” our skills in the twilight while waiting for the sun to fully set.  By then everyone was primed for full dark runs. I decided to run it a few different ways. One was with a weapon-mounted light and then one running handheld. Weapon-mounted was easiest, so I ran it first. The dark forced everyone to move slower, so we saw a lot of much better runs than in the daylight. One of the students even broke out his PVS-14’s and did a fully blacked out run. Not too shabby for a 68 year-old man. Final run of the night I broke out my EDC set up and ran the house. This included the long 41 yard hallway and the largest room in the house which is close to 30 yards as well. Not easy with a 3.5 inch M&P 9c and a handheld light.

On day two we brought out the long guns and started running two man techniques. I was paired with a coworker with a military background. Took a few runs to get our timing and verbiage down, but once we did, it was like old times again. Biggest problem I had was going back to low gun. For years now I have been utilizing a high port carry for weapon manipulation. This is not conducive to a house with observers on a catwalk, so I found myself fighting the gun more than I would have liked, but such is life. Adaptability is key in the shooting world in general. I did most of my runs with my 14.5” BCM, but I did get a few in with the AAC 300BLK right up until I smoked one of the doors as it bounced back during a shot call. Things happen, and after examination, I actually hit the target through the door with at least one round. This taught us all an important lesson that Steve had said on day one: nothing in a house is true ballistic cover. Our final validation took us around the house in a loop. This showed us how different angles in the same house can present it as a completely different structure. Targets we had engaged the first time through became active again as we ran the same rooms backwards.  It worked perfectly.

In conclusion, I would recommend this course to anyone and everyone. We all know that continuing education is the most important thing you can do to develop yourself as a shooter. This course forced me out of my comfort zone and well into my failure point.  I think the biggest lesson I learned was SLOW DOWN. When you think you are going slow enough, SLOW DOWN MORE. There is no need to rush to your death in a gun fight.  Sometimes a tactical pause when you open a door is enough to throw an adversary off balance, gives you an opportunity to step back and see into the room. You can shoot people through doorways just as easily as from inside the room, however you cut off their angles of support if they have friends in the room. Slow and methodical will get you surprising shots on target. Fast and aggressive will get you dead unless you have someone backing you up.  Even in a team, work your angles and find the shots that minimize exposure. When you commit to a room, speed, surprise, and violence of action are your friends. All in all, wish I had more time to spend in the house.  It was a great experience and I can’t wait for the next class.

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