Join Date: September 13, 2012
AAR: 21st Century Gunfighter Handgun 1
Company: 21st Century Gunfighter
Class: Handgun 1
Instructor: Stephen Pineau
Date: September 8, 2012
Location: Quail Creek Shooting Range, Argyle TX
Just to give you a little background about myself, I have been shooting handguns for just a couple years, and in that time have never taken a training class, and have gone through about 700-1000 rounds.
Enter Handgun 1 taught by Stephen Pineau of 21st Century Gunfighter.
Some of you may know Stephen from 21st Century Gunfighters instructional YouTube videos or from his collaboration with Chris Costa on designing the Catalyst extended magazine release for the M&P. Stephen has mentored under some of the top instructors in the industry and he currently serves as the only assistant instructor for Chris Costa. Although Stephen is young, I can personally say, he is a master of the pistol and he knows how to instruct. During the lecture portions of the course, it was very evident that Stephen knew what he was talking about. He didn’t sound like someone just regurgitating what he had heard or read before. You could tell that he understood and practiced everything he was teaching. He is also an extremely personable instructor, so don’t be afraid to ask questions during class.
Handgun 1 was a curriculum that Stephen has been writing for awhile now. He wanted it to bridge the gap between being new to shooting, and being ready for some instructors’ level 1 classes. The course is 1 day (0800-1800) and requires 500 rounds of ammunition. I felt like this was a great length for the course. It was short enough to prevent information overload, but long enough to cover a good amount of material and get in a great deal of shooting. The price of the course is extremely reasonable, especially if you look at the quality of the instruction you receive.
The first half of the class covered accuracy through sight picture and trigger control. The first thing we covered was getting a proper grip on the handgun, as well as getting a proper stance, followed by implementing a clean press to the rear while having a good sight picture. Then, once we saw our current capabilities, we did a dry fire drill that involved placing an empty shell casing on top of the front sight post, then pulling the trigger, while trying to keep the shell casing from falling off. This really helped show me that I was jerking the gun downward and helped me to begin correcting it. Towards the end of the drill, I was easily able to keep the casing on the sight post. After we completed this partner drill, we worked on a ball and dummy drill to further enforce trigger control. During the first half of the day, we also did a focus on point of aim. Stephen wanted to show us that while sights helped increase accuracy, natural point of aim though using the gun as an extension of the body, provided a great deal of basic accuracy. We taped up our sights and fired multiple shots at distances from 3-10 yards.
This is actually a great time for me to bring up a GREAT aspect of Stephen’s classes, “big boy rules”. Stephen is a big believer in what he calls “big boy rules”. He says that we are all adults here and that he is not going to tell us exactly how many rounds to fire each time, as he doesn’t want us to think that X amount of rounds is what you need to fire to stop a threat. He would say something like “fire something like 3-5 rounds or until you deem the threat neutralized.” Whenever I would notice one of my shots not impacting the target where I expected it to, I would just fire an additional 1 or 2 rounds, with no worry of an instructor asking me why I fired more than X shots. He also used these big boy rules later in the course when we worked on malfunction clearing. He would say something along the lines of “Just get your gun back in the fight. It is your life on the line, clear it and take down the threat.”
Now back to the first half of the day. After we worked on trigger control, we worked on the draw. He went though the various stages of the draw and went through them my stating what the body was doing, not just numbering the steps of the draw, which I appreciated. I had practiced dry firing with my draw many times, but hadn’t really had the opportunity to actually do draws that ended in me sending a live round downrange. I would say that in the week prior to this class, I had performed about 100 or so dry fires from a draw where I would draw, fire, bring back to a compressed ready, inspect my surroundings, and re-holster. Stephen taught us another step that I had not considered, but I thought was very important, once you fired your rounds into the target, with the trigger prepped, follow the target to the ground (have to use some imagination with paper targets) before returning to compressed ready, so that you could ensure the treat was eliminated. Then, while inspecting your surroundings, remember to look back at the threat when you would pass back through your center line of vision. Even though this may come as common sense to some, I had not thought about following the threat to the ground before. I must admit, even though I hadn’t had that much trigger time prior to this class, it took some adjusting to get my body to follow the threat to the ground.
The last thing we worked on during the first half of the class was performing reloads, both tactical and emergency. Performing reloads was just like I had practiced except for how Stephen taught us to recover empty magazines. I won’t really go into detail about the mag recovery, but I will just say that it made great sense and resulted in me recovering my mag 100% of the time on the first try while keeping my eyes on my surroundings 99% of the time. There was no wasted motion or time involved in the process.
Even though this doesn’t necessarily affect the training itself, the place Stephen showed us for lunch, the Blue Hanger Café, was EXCELLENT! Good food and good conversation. I learned a lot from Stephen, as well as my fellow students.
Upon our return from lunch, we worked on balancing speed and accuracy (BSA), clearing malfunctions, and covering timers and switches. With Stephen making accuracy our focus for the first half of the day, the second half was based on increasing our speed, but maintaining critical hits. Stephen pushed us in terms of speed, but reminded us that we needed to be as fast as we could, while ensuring all of our shots were within the upper-thoracic/cardio-pulmonary cavity, below the clavicle notch and above the bottom of the sternum. It was during this portion of the course where we were also introduced to the concept of “timers and switches” and choosing your target area based on its affect on the human body. This was a very interesting section of lecture that considered various bio-mechanical body impacts. During the BSA section of the course, we performed the drill, “Chase the Rabbit”. Stephen told us that this drill was courtesy of Chris Costa. If you haven’t heard of this drill, it is a great way to work on quickly adapting to changing target location, while maintaining really good accuracy. The BSA section of the course culminated in a drill of Stephen’s design. The drill involved drawing, aiming, and firing 6 shots into the cardio-pulmonary cavity as fast as you could with penalties for missed shots. The drill can be performed at any distance, but we conducted it at both 5 yards and 8 yards. It was really interesting to see how the accuracy and speed changed with distance. My times were a little too close, and Stephen commented that with the accuracy of my grouping at 5 yards, I could have easily pushed myself faster, while still keeping all of my shots within the cardio-pulmonary cavity. It was really good to see how my skills had progressed through the day of his instruction. His instruction had really helped me increase both my speed and my accuracy. I wasn’t particularly one of the most accurate or fastest students to begin with, but I was pleased to see by the time we were performing this drill, I was able to put 5/6 shots within the targeted zone within 3.24 seconds with the 6th shot less than an inch from the targeted zone. Considering I was NOWHERE NEAR capable of performing like that at the beginning of the class, it just speaks to Stephen’s ability as an instructor. Obviously, there are those of you who can perform this faster and more accurately than I, but it was a great accomplishment for me, personally.
After working on BSA, we worked on clearing malfunctions. Stephen’s method for clearing them was a great linear progression that will work on 95% of failures, while not requiring very much time. He also showed us a way to clear double-feeds that none of us had ever seen before. Once we had worked on the linear progression and the double-feed clearing drills, we performed a drill that Stephen borrowed from Steve Fisher (one of his mentors), Malfunction Mayhem. This drill really tested our patience while experiencing failure. We had to mix empty brass into our ammo and load up all of our mags with this mix. I had my brother-in-law load my mags for the sake of greater surprise (he graciously gave me 4 empty cases in a row in one of my mags). This was an excellent drill. There were definitely some people cursing Stephen’s name while they dealt with their 10th malfunction. Stephen was harping on mindset all day long, and this definitely tested our mindset. We had to continue to focus on the fact that we needed to clear this malfunction, no matter what number it may have been, so that we could get back in the fight.
The last thing we focused on during the training was the concept of timers and switches and choosing which part of the body to aim at, based on competency/distance/scenario. I had never been introduced to the timers and switches concept before, so I found all of the information on how hitting various parts of the body affected the bio-mechanical nature of it. After doing some drills engaging multiple target zones, we performed the end of the day competition. This particular competition, the triple threat, was courtesy of Kyle Lamb. Everyone surprised themselves on just how well they did on this drill. Even the female shooter, who had only held a gun 3 times prior to this course and was using a subcompact, did EXTREMELY well.
Once we were finished with our shooting drills, Stephen did something I wasn’t expecting: he conducted a debrief to provide all of the students with the opportunity to tell him what they liked about the course and what they thought could be improved. Stephen was VERY receptive to all of the course critiques and was very involved in getting to the root cause of each suggestion so that he could continue to improve his teaching/course. It was also during this debrief when he provided us all with a great handout detailing drills we could practice on our own and the concepts covered in the course. I really appreciated receiving this reference.
Judging from everyone’s comments during the debrief, everyone learned something from this course, even the training junkies and military guys. It was great to see how people improved throughout the day. The female student was never treated any different from the rest of us and she improved greatly from the teachings. I would recommend 21st Century Gunfighter courses to anyone. Even if you don’t think you need something like Handgun 1, he has 2 more levels that continue to increase in difficulty and value. I am definitely going to be taking another class from him in the future.