Join Date: Sep 2011
Location: Republic of Texas
AAR 21st Century Gunfighter Handgun 2
Company: 21st Century Gunfighter
Class: Handgun 2
Instructor: Stephen Pineau
Date: December 15, 2012
Location: The Firing Line, Georgetown, TX
Class size: Approx 22 students
First, a little background about the reviewer. I have been shooting handguns seriously for about a year and do competitive, combat style, shooting several times a month. In terms of previous training experience, I have attended about a half dozen firearms training courses in the past year. This includes CHL training, Appleseed and several local tactical handgun/carbine clinics. I have trained with Stephen before and was a “plank owner” for his 1st Handgun 2 class back in August of this year. Besides looking forward to repeating a great training experience with this class I was very interested to see how he evolved the curriculum, from the initial iteration. I was delighted to see a number of alumni from other 21st Century classes there, as well.
Probably bears repeating, bring top quality, functional gear to a class, including your blaster. Nothing is more frustrating than dealing with a buggy gun on the line – not only for you but the instructor and fellow shooters, as well. If you are smart, bring a back-up for everything (i.e. one-is-none, two-is-one approach).
GUN: G19 Gen 2, night sights & extended mage release (primary), G17 Gen 3 back-up
HOLSTER/MAG POUCHES: Skunk Work custom kydex OWB
BELT: Original Special Operations Equipment 1.5” Cobra
Ammo: Remington UMC Yellow box 115 grain FMJ
Pretty basic stuff here. The majority of the class ran Glocks or M&P with a few Sigs and the odd XD thrown in. Mostly Raven or Bravo kydex with LE guys typically running their duty belts. You can run your rig anyway you like in Stephen’s classes - Duty rig, OWB or concealed, we had a variety of all 3 approaches. As a side note, Stephen ran his M&P in the class from appendix carry, concealed. I had zero failures with my ammo and the only failures on my primary G19 were deliberately induced in the drills
About the instructor:
Stephen may already be familiar to you from 21st Century Gunfighters YouTube videos or from his work with Chris Costa on the M&P Catalyst extended magazine release. He also serves as the only assistant instructor for Chris Costa and has trained and been mentored by most of the big names in the industry, so his course of study represents some of the best training concepts from a variety of sources. Stephen is a very bright, articulate and engaging young man with a terrific sense of humor and real passion for what he is doing. This shows through in every aspect of his instruction. Because he is younger than many instructors, I think sometimes his capabilities are not fully appreciated, believe me, he is the first one to tell you right up front he has never been “down range” and doesn’t want anyone to think he has. In fact, Stephen not only goes out of his way to point that out when he does his introduction to the class, but goes to great length throughout the entire class to credit other instructors when he uses a drill he learned from them. Very classy. But, like any gifted teacher, his approach will push you to the limits of your individual skill set and then teach you the tools and methods that can move you to the next level.
Stephen’s Handgun 2 curriculum has been in development for well over a year now. Unlike a lot of trainers who only offer a Level 1 and 2 class, Stephen has designed a 3-tiered approach which, I think is most effective. This means that a Level 1 is a true Level 1, not 1.5, etcetera. The Handgun 2 is for intermediate to advanced shooters. The course is 1 day (0800-1700) and has a round count of about 600-700 depending on how enthusiastic you get in some of the drills. You have more than enough time to shoot and learn without your head exploding. Believe me, Stephen packs a ton into the day and you will feel like you are drinking from a fire hose but the information is presented in digestible portions and the pace of the class allows you to absorb each module before you move on. If I had a nickel for every time he paused and asked the class “does that make sense?” I could have paid for the day! The class proceeds logically with a lecture/POI to set up the next module and then a practical set of drills or other skills building exercises to reinforce that specific lecture. I have taken to calling Stephen my shooting “Sensei” because of his holistic approach to teaching – you not only learn WHAT to do, you understand WHY you are doing it and the philosophy behind it. In his words, the course is about three things:
Simple and elegant, the essence of great teaching.
I am going to just give some highlights here about the actual course and some observations without any spoilers. I would divide the course into two distinct areas; the fundamentals of marksmanship and the practical applications of those fundamentals in a dynamic environment
The morning portion of the class covered and the basics; sight alignment/picture, grip, stance, trigger press and follow through. Seems simple enough and probably redundant for the level of shooters in the class, right? Well, the initial drill of the class is designed to show you that you’re not as good as you think you are, as Stephen calls it “taking off the superman cape”. Once that’s done we moved through all the basics and started to work basic marksmanship drills on small bulls eyes designed to optimize shot placement and accuracy - the building blocks to the next set of Balance of Speed and Accuracy (BSA) drills. After the drills we went back and shot the bulls eye (i.e. one hole) drills and everyone’s groups tightened up considerably.
We worked through a series of BSA drills from various ranges next. Always with a purpose and interspersed with relevant POIs on such items as presentation, extension, and after action scan and assess. Stephen teaches a very good practice of following the threat to the ground and getting a second picture as well as the traditional scan and assess we all know. One of the many things he shared that stuck with me was “use your sights as your speed control” in other words, don’t shoot faster than you can see.
We moved on to a very intense session of malfunction problem solving inspired by a drill from Magpul’s Steve Fisher called Malfunction Mayhem. It’s essentially 4 or 5 mags worth of set-up malfunctions by mixing live rounds with spent cases in each mag. Stephen’s approach is a linear one to malfunctions that will solve about 95% of any of the problems you encounter. I will tell you he taught us an entirely new approach to clearing double feeds that was jaw-dropping in simplicity and effectiveness. Many of the experienced shooters were stunned at how well this worked (no, I won’t spoil it here, ask Stephen himself or come to a class). We did this drill two times, the second time it was more complex with changing target hit zones and shooting positions each time we got a malfunction…it kicked everybody’s ass. Very effective in multitasking problem solving and weapon manipulation.
From there we moved to various dynamic drills that focused on movement off the line, various shooting positions and engaging multiple targets. This is where the round count and class tempo really amped up – it’s surprising how fast you can burn through 4 mags!
I mentioned earlier about how effective the lectures are in Stephens classes. We went through an excellent module on wound physiology and anatomy as it relates to neutralizing the threat. He also discussed how the body reacts to stress and how that impacts one’s ability to get rounds downrange in a real world situation. As I said before, Stephen makes it clear he is a shooter and a teacher, not an “operator”. To add to the lecture on the mindset part of the gunfight he invited our LE and MIL class members to relate experiences they have had downrange, not in terms of war stories but rather to validate and/or expand on the concept of performing under stress, dealing with the ‘tunnel vision’ of combat stress and other elements. Very informative.
Being a competitive and athletic guy, Stephen closed the day out with a competition that involved sprinting to 20, 10 and 3 yard distances and engaging targets – the drill was repeated several times and it really served to pull everything we learned that day into a single package; perform under stress by trusting your fundamentals, mindset and manipulation skills. Perfect!
At the conclusion of the class, Stephen did something I have not seen in any other class I have taken: he called the class to form up on him and conducted a debrief, going around to each student and asked what they liked about the course and what could be improved. He would not move on to the next student until he got some critique out of them…in an industry dominated by training “rock stars” this speaks volumes about his sincerity and authenticity as a seeker of firearms training knowledge. As we had a few fellow instructors in the class, some of the suggestions were excellent and I am sure if I train with him again they will make their way into the course.
Given the current package pricing (well under $200) I would consider this an extremely high value training opportunity. You will shoot a lot, have a great time, train with terrific fellow students and come away with a better understanding of your skills as a shooter and how to improve. Stephen is that rare combination of a great shooter and an equally great teacher, who, I think, is destined to be one of the premier instructors in this industry. I would not hesitate to recommend him as an instructor to anyone, regardless of skill level. If you have the opportunity to train with him, grab it!