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[dcs_fancy_header bgcolor=”#ffffff” color=”#000000″ fweight=”bold”]You bought a handgun; you may even shoot it at the range or carry it from time-to-time. Maybe you upgraded to the latest and greatest Tacti-cool gear, now your ready for anything the world can throw at you right? Wrong! So many gun owners deceive themselves by arming themselves with such a powerful tool, yet forget to arm themselves with the knowledge and training to use their equipment let alone different ways to avoid confrontation in the first place. So I ask you, “Do you even train, Bro?”[/dcs_fancy_header]

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recently had the opportunity to attend a two-day defensive carry course by M3 Strategies, hosted by Dynamic Defense Group, at the West Coast Armory Pro Club and Range in Bellevue, Washington. M3 Strategies, located out of the Dallas-Fort worth area, is “rooted in Mindset, Marksmanship and Manipulation (hence M3), [and] seeks to build better shooters through proven techniques, a quality curriculum and superior instruction. [They] offer courses in disciplines ranging from Pistol and Carbine to Shotgun and Low Light. With a focus on safe, intuitive and efficient weapons handling techniques, [the] courses cater to the specific needs of the individual end user.

The owner and director of training is a very talented and charismatic young man by the name of Stephen Pineau. Stephen is also the founder of 21st Century Gunfighter. He will be the first to tell you he has never served in the military or worked at a law enforcement agency. He doesn’t teach military or law enforcement tactics. He focuses on the sciences of defensive shooting. And yes, there is a science to what goes into pressing a trigger.

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The overall demographic for the class was a very wide range. Some shooters had never shot at a target, and this was their first time having any real instruction. Some guys were like me, former and current military or Law Enforcement Officers (LEO) who went through a variety of small arms training throughout their carriers. There was even a USPSA Grandmaster who could run a gun with the best, but mostly the class consisted of folks who thought it wise to take a class prior to carrying a firearm for self-defense. One of these students had a physical disability and needed to use crutches. He did outstanding I might add.

I, like most shooters taking the class couldn’t wait to hit the ground running with live fire and training, but before the shooting began, Stephen laid out the basic safety rules and then got into what the defensive and offensive mindset is and isn’t. Mindset can mean a lot of things, but at the end of the day it should come down to avoiding a potential problem, deterring a probable threat and de-escalating a volatile situation. “Wait…” you might ask, “…where do the guns come in? I mean this is a shooting class, right? When do we get to shoot and move and get our official ninja card?” Hold on, Big Guy. Slow down a bit. Stephen rightly states, “shooting is .00000001% of the mindset spectrum.” He also hammered home the principle that he would “rather leave the house with an armed mind and an empty holster than with a loaded holster and an empty mind.” Bottom line, “every problem is not a shooting problem”. Your gun is not your only tool; in fact it should be one of the last tools you should resort to. Just like a carpenter has more than a hammer at his disposal, we should have more than a gun. “once that gun is pulled it is business time,” Pineau said. Two lives will forever be changed. Yours and theirs.” We just need to look at the recent Zimmerman Trial to know how true that statement is. Sobering moment for all.

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Zach C., one of the sixteen students in the class had the most extensive civilian training of the group and several years as a competitive shooter. IDPA master in SSP, CDP, ESP as well as a A class USPSA shooter. He is also a NRA pistol instructor as well as a staff instructor at the Norpoint Training Center.

“Stephen did a great job discussing mindset in the class emphasizing avoidance, deterrence and de-escalation. I was of a like mindset before the class but few instructors really spend time emphasizing it and calling out the students a little on the lack of other, possibly more relevant skill sets,” Zach said.

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Once Stephen had established what mindset is and isn’t and the fact that the “shooting instructor” was encouraging other options than shooting, we got into the mechanics and science behind running a gun. As mentioned earlier, there was a wide range of students, so Stephen started at the beginning. “This is a He went over the mechanics of a handgun, how it works, its controls, and ways to manipulate it. He went back to the basic fundamentals of grip, sight picture, trigger control, shot accountability, shot placement, terminal ballistics, body mechanics, barricade manipulation, malfunction drills, drawing the handgun from concealed and non-concealed positions and the needs to shoot or move or both.

In 20 hours over the course of two days, we covered an amazing amount of material, shot 1,000 rounds and most importantly, talked not only about the “what” and the “how”, but also the “why”. Why does the body work the way it does, and how can we use our body’s natural instincts and mechanics to make our shots more effective and efficient. This was important to me as I feel like a lot of the military training I received didn’t always focus on the “why”, rather this is the way you do it so “just shut up and do it.”

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Zach added, “I like that he was willing to give a “why” to any technique or topic he covered. Stephen has obviously put a great deal of thought and practice into his craft and it shows.”

Pineau was constantly focusing on accuracy, accuracy, accuracy!

“I feel that it certainly pushed my skill set more than I had expected. Stephen pushed for accuracy in all of the drills and I really made an effort to get perfect hits while pushing speed,” Zach Said.

Coming from a man who already shoots fast and straight for a living, if Zach was pushed, what about the less skilled shooters in the class?

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Jadoti Day, a novice shooter who was attending her first formal firearms class said, “I really enjoyed the patience demonstrated by Stephen as well as his push for accuracy no matter what we were doing. He showed enthusiasm the whole time and was always excited each time he got to teach us something new.”

One of my very good friends and 8-year veteran law enforcement officer, Officer Harris, also attended the class.

“Pineau managed to run the same curriculum for everybody, without the new shooters feeling overwhelmed, and without the experienced shooters feeling bored. Pineau had awesome drills, many of which I hadn’t even heard of before. Everybody was challenged and came out of this class a better shooter. I didn’t feel judged at all, which allowed me to check my ego, change a habit or two, and give myself goals to train towards,” Officer Harris said.

Some of the more experienced guys had to eat a little humble pie. I was one of those guys. I have learned a lot of firearms habits over the years and not all of them good. Keeping an open mind was key and very beneficial to the learning process. While challenging for me to fight against what I have been doing for 20+ years, I must say it paid off in spades. Not only did my groups get tighter and faster, my efforts in getting the gun up and rounds on target were much more efficient than my old way of doing things. It helped so much in fact, I ended up winning the dot torture challenge at the end of class. Apparently I was Stephen’s first student to ever shoot it clean. I say this not to brag at all, rather to emphasize what proper instruction and an open mind can do. Anyone can do it if they are willing to apply themselves and take advantage of sound teaching.

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Officer Harris, who is also a Taser and combat instructor for his police department, commented on how his thought process evolved during the course. “Before the class I was skeptical that a class that trains civilians would have anything worthwhile for me to learn. After going through the class I was greatly appreciative of the opportunity to attend. Pineau was able to teach this dog some new tricks that improved my shooting.” He continued by saying, “I’ve had a good amount of training in my law enforcement career. The M3 class provided training that was in the same league as some of the best training I’ve received.”

So after taking the class, do we, as armed citizens feel better equipped to defend ourselves or someone we love in a defensive situation? Overall, I would say yes… with a hand gun that is.

“I would say I am less confident and I think that’s a good thing. Let me clarify. I’m more confident in my ability to use a firearm in a defensive situation because I’m a better shooter today than I was a month ago, in a big part to this training, but Stephen’s lectures definitely made me take a serious look at the broadness of self-defense and reconsider how little effort I put into some of them. So now knowing that I’m not a guy with “Jitz” I’m probably going to take some unarmed self-defense classes, defensive knife courses, and less lethal classes,” Zach said.

This would also mean taking a class that focuses on verbal de-escalation could, just maybe, be helpful. Is it cool, maybe not, but if it teaches you how to talk your way out of a situation and not have to resort to some other escalated means and methods, it may be some of the best training you have in your arsenal. Pineau strongly recommends this type of training and fondly referrers to it as “Verbal Judo or Gerbil Voodoo.”

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I have found that a teacher can have wealth of good information, but if they can’t unpack it well, much of that information will not be conveyed very well, be misunderstood, or just be ignored.

“Pineau mixed in a great amount of humor that made the class unique. Pineau was polite and professional both respectable and respectful,” Officer Harris said.

Zach also added, “Stephen taught a good class and is a solid shooter. But more than that he is a rare instructor that will call bullshit when he feels he needs to and is willing to explain anything he does. Pineau explained things in detail and gave us plenty of direction to do more research and training outside the scope of the class. I feel it speaks highly of an instructor that will not only tell you what they learned and where they got it from, but also tell you where to seek out more knowledge and training even when it’s with other instructors or even non industry skills.”

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In closing, I know the other students in the class echoed my overall experience. It was a packed two days that challenged us, both mentally and physically, while emphasized a wide variety of skill sets that make up a good citizen who also happen to be armed. Criticisms? I’ll be honest, burning through 1,000 rounds in two days, while great for training, is a little painful on the pocket book and for some, the course fee ($500) may cause one to flinch, but in the end it is money well spent. In the grand scheme of things, you can’t put a price on knowledge and training that may save your life or the life of someone else, or for that matter keep your ass out of trouble. If you have the means, invest in some solid training.

If you are looking to improve your shooting skills, have fun, meet new friends, and walk away with a better understanding on the responsibility that comes with carrying a gun, then check out M3 Strategies. Hopefully these will be skills you never have to utilize. But if you do… Make sure you have the right mindset and skill set to troubleshoot and solve the problem.

“Train like you fight, and fight like you train.” Pretty much standard-operating-procedure if you ask me. While my days as a Navy Special Warfare (NSW) Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman (SWCC) are over, I still take that statement to heart. Training is essential in any discipline if you want to have any chance of performing well when the rubber meets the road. This is just as true for ballet dancer prior to a big Broadway debut, to the SPECWAR Operator about to jump into theater, or the average Joe who may need to defend himself in Any-Town USA. Bottom line, you will default to your lowest level of training when push comes to shove.

“Get out and train, Bro.”

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Steve has been a firearms enthusiast for over 20 years and is currently an NRA lifetime member. In 1996 he joined the United States Navy and served as a Special Warfare Combat Crewman (SWCC) at Special Boat Unit 12 (Now renamed Special Boat Team 12). He made two tours during his time of service and spent most of his time in southeast Asia and the Middle Eastern theaters. Upon his Honorable Discharge in 2000, Steve spent the next 10 years earning his Masters Degree and state license as an Architect. Steve brings a unique perspective from both his tactical and design background and is a reviewer and contributor for Guns & Tactics Magazine, Defense Marketing Group and other media outlets.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Great writeup Steve.
    I live near Bellevue and this article makes me hope M3 comes back so I can take a class.
    The $500 and 1000 rounds is tough to swallow… I just need to overcome that for myself.

    Are you in W. Washington?
    Your comments regarding other kinds of classes really resonated with me. After wresting with the mentally ill and those on drugs, I feel I need hand to hand training (those types of events were not in the brochure when I became a fireman). Do you have any class recommendations? Thanks

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