Over the weekend of July 28th, I attended the (first!) F2SConsulting High-Stress Shooting Class, held at the Echo Valley Training Center in High View, WV.
The F2S High-Stress Shooting Class is an advanced course, intended for students who have previous training with the pistol and carbine. The purpose of the High-Stress Shooting course is to instruct the students in solving complicated shooting problems, under conditions of environmental, physical, and psychological pressure. The instructors for the course are Jack Leuba and Chris Abernathy. Jack and Chris are USMC veterans with extensive combat and instructional experience.
The class took place over two days, and consisted of two major parts. Part one was mainly basic handgun and carbine drills, with time pressure and various stress modifiers added. From there, the drills become longer and more complicated, with more stress, and more victory conditions to keep track of.
The stress modifiers deserve a special mention. In some of the training evolutions, a missed shot or a non-passing score would result in some kind of correction – think along the lines of push-ups, flutter kicks, or reading horrible Goth poetry while the rest of the class cheers you on. On other evolutions, the stress modifiers came out during the drill itself – sometimes the student would lose the use of a hand, sometimes the use of their optics, sometimes they’d have to handle an instructor role-playing a panicked bystander. Yet other drills involved direct competition between the students, which is something I’ve personally found useful. Jack and Chris are very creative when it comes to increasing the pressure on the students, while still keeping everyone safe and in a learning mode.
Forgive me if I skip any individual drills, or get anything out of order.
TD1 started out with a quick but comprehensive safety and medical brief, and then we got right into the drills. There was no zeroing session, as all of the students were expected to bring a familiar and correctly zeroed carbine and pistol. Also, there was no discussion of gear placement, and only the bare minimum of coaching on technique. Jack and Chris rapidly identified anyone who needed additional coaching on the fundamentals, and got them sorted out during water and ammo breaks.
We began with some of the standard carbine drills – the VTAC Half-and-Half (shot both freestyle and support-side,) the 400 Aggregate, and the 1-5 Drill (also with the pistol.) We worked with the pistol, and did some refresher work on transitioning from the carbine to the sidearm. Almost all of these individual drills were shot against the clock, with scores recorded.
We did a fair amount of support-side work with the carbine, something that Jack in particular is a big believer in. Around this time we also did the F2SConsulting signature drill, the Fleischwolf (Meat Grinder). The Fleischwolf was the first of the more complicated drills that we shot during the course. It incorporates strong- and support-side shooting, high-precision shooting on the move, and use of cover. It’s a tough drill, and it gave us all a taste of what we were in for on Sunday.
Towards the end of TD1, we started in on some intermediate barriers – specifically, shooting through windshield glass with our duty ammo. Very interesting, and more on the whole intermediate barriers thing later.
TD2 led off, bright and early (and hot), with more intermediate barrier shooting. We all got to run our carry/duty ammo against car doors, concrete block wall, and wooden interior doors, all at different ranges and from different angles. Everyone involved got a pretty solid familiarization with how different types of ammo react to different barricades, and what was needed to hit the target on the other side.
After finishing off the barriers, we did some man-on-man pistol work on the dueling tree. The winners of each heat would then shoot against each other, with continually more stringent accuracy requirements.
Next up, we started into the scenario drills in earnest. One of the best ways to induce stress in a training class environment is to ratchet up the complexity of the exercises. Instead of pure flat-range drills, the students were given a set of problems and forced to solve them on the clock. Some of these drills involved very small moving targets, dealing with noncombatants and bystanders, and working with and around other shooters. As always, various training modifiers were used to ratchet up the stress level, and some of them were quite diabolical.
I’m going to go into some detail on one particular drill, just because I personally found it very useful. The instructors set up three good-sized barricades laterally across the range, about twenty feet apart edge to edge. We divided into two-man teams, each team member having a different responsibility. Shooter #1 had to engage two bad guys at ~50 yards (Tactical Ted targets) from each barricade, while moving two five-gallon water jugs from the far left barricade to the far right. Meanwhile, shooter #2 is providing long-range suppressive fire on four 12″ steel plates at ~100 yards. The two shooters can not be more than one barricade apart. If we failed to use cover properly, or if the long-target shooter went more than 2-3 seconds without getting a hit on the steel, we would be ‘corrected’ with an airsoft pistol. The drill finished when both water jugs were moved from the left barricade to the right. This was a complex drill that forced both shooters to think, communicate, and work together. No joke, I could have happily spent all day working on this one.
For the last few drills, we headed back to the top of the hill for some long-distance shooting. We shot some timed drills, with targets back as far as 300 yards, and worked in some physical stress and psychological distraction.
Finally, we headed back to the flat range, we worked on some low-probability shooting on the move. One at a time, each student moved diagonally from 50 to 25 yards while engaging a steel BCZ target. Again, the students were scored on both speed and number of hits. Jack emphasized moving fast enough to make for a difficult target, and not firing unless you had a good sight picture. We ran the drill a second time while shooting support side only, and this was where some of the support-side carbine shooting really came together for me.
That was about it. We had just done about twenty hours of shooting over the course of two days, and the students were all beat. We cleaned up the range, did a short post-class debrief, and hit the road.
We had ten students in the class, representing a wide range of backgrounds, shooting skill, and physical fitness levels. To the best of my recollection, we had two active law enforcement types, one USMC officer, a couple of ex-military folks, and at least one hardcore gun gamer. Everybody had some professional training, with a few students having MANY classes under their belts.
Carbines were mostly 16″ AR clones in 5.56x45mm. One or two AR SBRs made an appearance, and one student ran an FN SCAR-16 for the entire class (it ran perfectly.) Pistols were mostly 9x19mm Glocks, with a few Smith and Wesson M&Ps and maybe one or two other brands.
I ran my backup 3-gun rifle for the entire class, a Bravo Company RECCE-16 upper on some random lower from my Big-Box-O’-AR-Lowers, with a first-gen Meopta Meostar 1-4x22KD scope on a LaRue mount. Ammo was a mix of Federal and IMI M193 55grn. ball and PMC X-TAC 55grn. ball. The rifle suffered no malfunctions and shot all three brands of ammo into ~1.5in. at 100 yards.
I ran a Gen3 Glock 19 for the first day, and my Gen4 Glock 34 for the second day. Ammo was mostly Magtech 115grn. 9mm ball. Both guns ran without any malfunctions. I used Ready Tactical strong-side holsters and magazine pouches on a Wilderness CSM belt. I wore some generic button-down shirt from WalMart as a cover garment.
My Course Evaluation / Things I Learned
The F2S High-Stress Shooting Class was, in my own opinion, very successful in exposing the students to shooting under pressure. The class was always run with both professionalism and a sense of humor, and it made for an environment in which a lot of learning can take place. The drills and exercises were all well though out, and the instructors did a good job of adjusting the difficulty level on the fly. All of the students came to the High-Stress Shooting class with a pretty solid grounding in how to shoot. We all left with a solid grounding in how to think, while shooting.
One thing really needs to be mentioned – this is not a high-round-count ammo-burner class (if we wanted that, we could have gone to the next range over.) Many of the drills are shot one at a time, and accuracy standards were uniformly high. Students were expected to get their hits every time, right out of the box. Targets were constantly taped and replaced, so there was never any question as to whether the students were getting their hits. The class also incorporated a lot of reactive targets for the long rifle shooting.
As always, there are a few things that I would change. First and foremost, although the cover materials shooting was really, really interesting, it also took up a lot of training time. I would have preferred to spend some of that time working on more scenario drills. I also would have liked to spend some time discussing methods of handling stress, but the class schedule was pretty full as is. In fact, I suspect that this class may expand into a 3-day course in the future.
Things to Bring to an F2S Class
A tested and RECENTLY ZEROED weapon. You need to know that your weapon is going to work, and you need to know where your weapon is hitting. F2S has an almost magical way of drawing malfunctions out of ‘reliable’ guns. Bring a gun that has been thoroughly shot in, and confirm the zero on it before the class. Also, check your zero often when you’re not at class – as I learned the hard way, zeros drift over time. Jack mentioned that he zeros his rifle more often than he cleans it. That seems like a good rule of thumb.
Think about a low-power variable scope instead of an RDS. There were two of us running low-power (1-4x and 1-6x) variable optics at this class. We had no trouble keeping up on the fast, close shooting, and were much more successful out past 100 yards. I really think that low-power variables have come into their own. Try one out.
Your lunch, along with plenty of snacks and water. Jack and Chris hang around the range during lunch. If you’re having problems during the class, or want to try out someone else’s gear, or just want to pester them with questions, lunch and breaks are a good time to do it. Several students who needed some refresher training on the fundamentals got it at lunch. You’ll miss all of this if you make a Wendy’s run…
Gloves. Not necessarily for shooting, but for moving stuff around the range and for stuffing magazines. Both my thumbs looked like raw hamburger after two days of this. I normally don’t shoot with gloves on, but I keep a pair of those cheap Mechanix gloves in my range bag nowadays.
An open mind and a serious drive to improve.