AAR – Sentinel Concepts Essential Handgun Employment
As originally published on ModernSamuraiProject.com
August 23, 2015

AAR – Sentinel Concepts Essential Handgun Employment

When – August 22 & 23, 2015

Where – Back Creek Valley Bow and Gun Club, Hedgesville, WV

Cost – $450

Ammo – 1000 rounds

My bio to gauge whether or not my opinions are relevant to you:
Lifelong martial artist (TKD, Muay Thai, BJJ), no LEO or military experience (save being an Air Force brat), NRA pistol instructor (who isn’t?). I have received previous training from George Wehby of I4Tactical, Matt Jacques of Victory First, John Murphy of FPF, Aaron Brumley of Solo Defense, private training with Al DeLeon of the State Dept’s MSD unit. I shoot anywhere from 200 to 400 rounds a week. I try to compete once a month.

I have been trying to take a Steve Fisher class since I met him at the Warrior Shoot Event Group’s benefit in early 2014. After a year and a half, the schedules finally aligned. I was excited to attend the class for a number of reasons. First and foremost, Steve has always been a helpful resource on various Facebook groups. Now whether this help comes with or without chiding is your problem. Steve is also very prevalent on various podcasts most notably Practically Tactical. Some of his ideas are counter to most accepted firearms related dogma and I wanted to get more detailed exposure to his philosophies. Finally, he promised that his standards would make me cry on Practically Tactical. Challenge accepted.

Usual Stuff

The opening brief contained the usual, but highly important, information about safety, emergency procedures and general training rules. Steve is clear, concise, and unforgiving in the enforcement of these rules stressing that he will have no problem sending someone home if a violation occurs.

I am going to skip the details of many things Steve reviews in this foundation class. To share everything would require writing a small book and give the illusion that you could cheat yourself out of the experience of training with Steve. Suffice it to say that you most certainly cannot.
Instead I am going to share what had the most impact on me.
Trigger Finger
I place my on the finger pad. That is how I was trained. That is how I shoot. That is how I teach others to shoot. Steve professes that using the first interphalangeal joint is better. He explains this by using a pen to show the mechanics of why it is better. The explanation made perfect sense.

For the rest of the training I used this finger placement. My observations were that it was more “comfortable” but I was still fighting my tendency to place it on the pad. Since the class I have been drilling Dot Torture with this placement and it works well. I still have not decided on if its advantages are worth changing though. That said, I asked a friend who has enduring low left issues to try it. The difference was immediate.


I brought two pistols with me. One was a Gen 4 Glock 19 with RMR06, Zev trigger, Surefire X300U and KKM comped barrel. This configuration is also known as the Roland Special on the interwebs. The second gun was a Gen 3 Glock 17. It comprised of an Agency Arms Hybrid slide, RM06, Surefire X300U, and a frame crafted by Boresight solutions. The frame was textured and the grip was chopped down to Glock 19 proportions.
I had just recently acquired the Agency 17. While I very much enjoyed the gun, the lack of a Gen 4 beavertail made me think my recoil management was lacking with it. So when Steve began speaking about recoil management I switched to the gun to try and uncover my issues.

After doing some drills and watching Steve shooting during some class down time, it sunk in what Steve was talking about and doing. He professes to actually keeping the support hand thumb on the slide. This will enable a much higher grip to the bore axis. The difference for me was night and day.
The snappy pistol was now staying flat like my other Gen 4 beaver tailed pistols. Good times indeed.


Another interesting aspect was Steve explanation and drilling to illustrate cadence. I have heard other instructors such as Kyle Defoor speak of cadence and thought it useful but it never really stuck long enough for me to try it while training. Steve’s explanation and supporting drills brought the necessity to understand one’s own ability and cadence at different distances. I believe this to be a cornerstone of one of Steve’s mantras “Never move faster than your ability to make a life or death decision”.

Malfunction Mayhem

Another enlightening insight was Steve’s conviction that the classic Tap-Rack-Bang technique will solve 99% of malfunctions. Although Steve goes on to say that “Tap” should be replace with “Smack”. Although there are other ways to cure different types of malfunctions, keeping the methodology consistent will the remedy the situation quicker. This streamlined approach keeps the skillset “tool box” uncluttered unlike most people’s toolboxes which are usually a chaotic mess. Steve also covers the other 1% of malfunction clearing. Please sign up for the class to get more details.

Ready Positions

Ready positions were also covered. Low ready, compressed ready, high compressed ready were explained and drilled. More importantly, their origin and function of use or uselessness were also detailed.

Furthermore, Temple Index was also discussed (although not drilled). The explanation, proper placement and contextual use of the technique were demonstrated. After the explanation, one truly wonders why it was such a bonfire of controversy on the interwebs. No birds or planes were destroyed during this demonstration.

Standards and Lines Don’t Count

Finally, multiple standards tests were conducted throughout the course of the two day training. The standards always included distances ranging from three to 25 yards. They were progressively challenging but not impossible. Alas, a malfunction on the third drill in the last standard knocked me out of contention for top shooter. This was to be the final humbling blow to my already bruised ego from the two days of training.

One “standard within a standard” that I have incorporated into my training is Steve’s rule that lines don’t count. Meaning that if you round breaks the target line (or circle) regardless if the majority ff the hole is in or outside of the intended target area, it does not count. This solidifies Steve’s attitude that accuracy above all else matters.

Steve Fisher as a Teacher

Steve is who he is. He can be brash, tactless, hilarious, interesting, insightful, hilarious, encouraging, unforgiving, and self-deprecating. What he is not is apologetic. He does not apologize for his beliefs, his teachings, his jokes, or the stupidity of the internet. If you come to train, he will teach you how to train so that you can improve on your own. If you come with an ego, he will get inside your head and crush it so that you can learn and improve. Steve will make you improve your manipulation of your handgun with the appropriate balance of speed and accuracy whether you like it or not….and he does not apologize for it.

Final Recommendation

Worth every penny I spent. I eagerly look forward to taking Critical Handgun Employment soon.