I recently attended Low Light Partners Shoothouse with Steve Fisher of Sentinel Concepts. The course was held at the Alliance Police Training Facility. It was a large class of 18 students including many who had never taken a shoothouse course before. Steve brought Ephraim Rogers, Bill Peterson, Joe Halloran and Michael Sebastian as additional instructors. They brought a diverse experience pool from military positions to Swat roles.
Starting out the course we were told “the only dogma is there is no dogma!” We saw multiple ways to solve a problem. One way would most likely resonate to us as our preferred way of solving the problem. However, it was important to keep an open mind. While one way worked well for many situations, there were scenarios our preferred solution would not be ideal.
This class is applicable to anyone from the responsibly armed citizen to the military or law enforcement professional. There were numerous scenarios given where you and a friend might have to clear a structure. This is the application of the square range drills and techniques we are used to seeing. Focus shifts from offset and tactical reloads to classifying friend from foe and door procedures.
The day began with a safety brief and we grabbed full kit to go out to the square range. Many were not familiar with armor, war belts and helmets. This was a time to assess shooting proficiency of the class and fix gear issues.
While new gear is exciting, a shoothouse class is not time to be experimenting with new gear. It is better to have tested gear and focus on learning new content from the class instead of struggling with new gear failures.
After the square range assessment we moved to the house for a shoothouse brief. Here we began working on identifying types of doors and how to work them from a position of mechanical advantage.
We also talked about the balance of minimizing personal risk and the time requirements of various scenarios. Searching a building for someone requires different speed and precaution than if we were responding to shots fired in a room of third graders.
Many other considerations were discussed when talking about door and room procedures. We then broke up into two groups and practiced working doors and rooms.
Back in the classroom we began a lowlight discussion. Common discussions on lumens, switches and activation were quickly addressed before moving to the proper procedure for dealing with unknowns. Many factors were discussed to distinguish shoots from no shoots. The correlation with the OODA loop was also discussed. I had been to multiple courses but the way we processed the shoot and no shoot targets was based on a number system. This made it easy to take home for sustainment training.
Next we moved to run 1 of the day with live fire. After making ready we got our brief. I was partnered with Jeff, a long time student who had been to multiple shoot house courses and had an extensive history in military and police roles.
We clicked together well but had some rust we had to polish off our first run. I enjoy working with new partners and building team cohesion throughout a course.
There were 9 2-person teams so there was plenty of time in between runs. This allowed for teams to go over the previous runs and find ways to improve for the next run. We had one more run that night and then were sent home. I worked the first day on extremely minimal sleep due to schedule issues I had to finish before the course. This gave me a good understanding of my capabilities when running at 20 or 30%, however I highly suggest you come to the course well rested and ready to perform.
We began day 2 with our partners, working rooms and doors with our “air guns”. The big takeaway I got from this was that I do not have to pretend a couch, furniture or tv is “lava”. Often when going to CQB courses I noticed I tried to stay far away from furniture and didn’t want to brush up against anything. When it was pointed out to me I realized how foolish this was and I did not have to remain so far away from a couch when clearing a room!
After the warmup, shapes were discussed and demonstrated. We then grabbed our rifles and practiced the shapes with our partners. This was followed by a run to start implementing shapes with live fire. By the second run of the day I felt more polished and my team mate and I were working cohesively. Using a light forces the assaulter to look further ahead. Doing so also allows problems to be solved sooner.
Putting in Work
During run 2 my rifle malfunctioned and forced me to transition to my secondary. This went smoothly until we got to the next threshold and I had to tac load my secondary and fix the malfunction on my primary. I noticed how easy it was to get lazy and rely too much on my partner. These nuggets are important and can only be learned and retained by going to shoothouse courses and putting in the time with an experienced teacher.
The final day started with a live run. This caught some by surprise. Previous days we warmed up with “air guns” or dry gun runs. This run we worked the entire shoothouse. We also were allowed to go on the catwalk after our run. We saw how other teams solved the same problems and small adjustments the instructors made.
An instructor stayed in the catwalk and directed our attention to aspects of each team’s performance. This was as helpful for learning as doing the run. The last run Steve partnered with a student and went through the entire house. While I gained a lot from each run, watching Steve problem solve and effortlessly move through the house was worth the price of admission. I have done numerous runs throughout the last few CQB courses, but seeing the smooth transition between solving each problem was a major lightbulb moment for me.
From there I made small adjustments in the remaining runs. Much can be learned by watching runs by new students and those with extensive professional experience. Careful attention must be paid to the nuances of each run.
“Small disciplines repeated with consistency every day lead to great achievements gained slowly over time.” – John C. Maxwell
Mike quoted Maxwell at the end of the course and this rang true. A shoothouse course is not a shooting course but a problem solving course. You can solve a problem different ways and each time find things to work on for your next run.
Flat range courses are important, but they are simply the first step. These skills must be applied in a shoothouse environment to be tested and evaluated. Steve and the other instructors were skilled both in the content they taught and teaching to the various skill levels of each team. Whether you have only taken flat range courses or you have taken multiple shoothouse classes, I recommend this course. For those just starting Steve also offers square range courses to prepare you for the shoothouse. Check out the schedule for courses with Sentinel Concepts.