Steve Hendricks — CTS (Custom Tactical Services)
14-15 June 2019
Work travel for years then the surprise toddler means I have really, really slacked on training. First time I had gotten formal training from anyone for something like 4-5 years was FOP3. But, I have (so far… toddler was bad this weekend) gotten permission from the wife to take a solid 1 (maybe more) per year.
So, some friends who are much more serious shooters, involved deeply with big time international shooting organizations and matches, etc etc who I have gone to a few things with, including a Gunsite 250 way back when, invited me to a relatively local pistol only 2 day custom class by a professional instructor they know and have attended courses from and with before, Steve Hendricks. This guy:
If you scroll a bit, his tiny bio, and a video about the Prevail Challenge we shot near the end.
Anyway… custom means not the Gunsite way (or the DEA way or so on) but his way. And, that it was shorter than usual because he knows we all (even me!?) can basically shoot, handle the gun safely etc so he skips at least a whole day of very basic stuff. And, also I gather, skipped lots of tangential topics (though I had zero to do with the course coordination, just picking it up as an attendee). We covered no movement, essentially no weak handed work, no barricades, no low-light. Just some specific topics that he’s especially good at teaching, and drilled into those. Worth it.
I have been formulating a thought for a while now that instructors have not just their own methods and opinions, but their own focus. It may be me, but LAV gave me wobble zone and is my sights guy. Jim Crews gave me reset, above all. And Hendricks is a grip/recoil guy (they go together). This is a good reason getting different trainers is worth it. And, I really improved some stuff in measurable ways from this class. MUCH more so than I do in a couple-three days normally.
Hopefully not over-summarizing, the core aspects were:
- Don't try to be fast. Use techniques that have inherent speed, understand, and refine your use of those.
- The really key one is an improvement of the draw stroke. He called it gas-gas-coast-brake. Short version is that you rush the draw and rock, slowly push the gun out while "steering" the gun to the target as you slow to full extension. You pre-load the trigger, so you may more easily break the shot the moment you get to the extension you want.
- The alternative we do otherwise is very fast draw straight through extension, sometimes coming to a wobbly stop at the end, and then everyone pauses to align the sights (or misses a lot).
- It looks slow, like you are casually plinking away, but is notably (25% or more) faster on the timer.
- Some other key things to accompany this around grip ergonomics, that were clever and good, or explained from a physiological POV why we do what we do (high grip, push-pull)
- Recoil control techniques, and a lot of "jedi mind tricks" to make us do better just by tricking our stupid brains into paying attention to doing the right thing, obtusely, with oddly good results.
I did screeline pants, a Massif combat shirt, OR boonie, Banner GTX, Wilderness belt, twin 10 speed mag pouches, and an ALS holster for the M&P 9 Elite 4.25” with X300U-A. I would have at least partly shot the CORE with JPoint but only have an IWB for it as yet and that’s less suitable for class for several reasons.
I am very pleased to note that I had no notable equipment or organizational issues. 15 minutes after I got home everything was around 60% put away. No stoppages except the induced ones, etc.
My pelican Air case from Brad is a good seat. After losing my Hardigg chair at Alliance, I bought something else to sit on, but one shooter did not bring a chair, and borrowed it to good effect.
Okay, one equipment failure. .40 mags don't work in M&P9. Many times .40 mags work at least as well as 9 mm mags in 9mm guns when loaded with 9mm. They present the round higher, etc. But… not in the M&P. I seem to have accidentally bought one (I checked, only one) and it fed about 2/3 of the time, but no more. Luckily, found that early, so marked it. Anyone want a .40 M&P 15 round mag, barely used?
I got to try out Greg Moats' Wilson EDC at the end of the day, which he shot the whole thing with. Interesting gun.
Private range complex near Russell, Kansas. We used a single pistol bay of the many available, shot entirely from 3-7 yards. The bay had movers on two sides, berms on three+, but we didn't use any other stuff.
Almost entirely one string (12 shooters, 13 when the range owner joined us, mostly on TD2), which was nice, so lots more percentage of shooting than usual.
No lecture facility, which was hot but we all* had chairs, and it also kept things efficient as we could pop between short lectures and range time in moments.
Weather and Sustainment:
Both days were blazingly sunny, hot, but not humid and mostly breezy. Not enough in the shooting pit, but not bad. No heat casualties, but on TD2 the one deputy didn’t wear his patrol vest, and many others wore shorts.
Water was provided but everyone seemed well enough equipped they did not need to borrow any.
Rest is the notes I took during the class. Mostly what Steve said, a few times my opinion on a lecture or behavior from a drill. In order, it should track to the narrative he's building okay if you want to stick with it. Many of the I and my statements are quotes, so mean "Steve" will do this.
TD0 — Pre-range briefing after dinner
He's not teaching how to shoot but how to shoot better. So, some of it is custom per student.
Shoot sooner, not faster
First, get all the speed out of a method that you can (do the method right, instead of rushing)
Speed does not cause mistake, it exposes them
He's trying to take the word “speed” out of everything.
Fast makes students go too fast, makes them nervous.
The difference between administrative and tactical is your mind, not your hands.
I won't change anything [you do] unless it's to make you better.
If you want to get better you have to have some way to get better.
Not his quote “The beginner practices until he can do it right. The expert practices until he can't do it wrong.”
Mostly 5-7 yds, to make sure we're concentrating on shooting, gun work, not worried about precision shooting... But grip, trigger etc
Is okay with flipping gun to reload etc. To hit the mag release.
When I say stop, stop. Do not complete the action. Could be an immediate danger. Assume you are the problem.
Unload is slide lock, prepare for inspection.
Eyepro anywhere on the range, all the time.
Coaches Eye app… Loves it. To record and compare what we do.
“Big Boy Rules” doesn't mean any thing goes. It means you suffer the consequences of your actions.
"As quick as you can" under control. Always. Always always.
Eventually, won't ask did speed, as we work technique.
Started with speed, to evaluate us. Then we work on it. All from holster:
- Single shot
- Bill drill
- 2 and 2
All timed and recorded
Okay to have stress in class. When someone is trying to kill you, there still be a little stress involved.
Stance: platform. Fighting is an athletic event, so you need an athletic stance. Most important factor, esp when moving, is to maintain balance.
You get to pick where you put your feet. So no excuse (generally) to being balanced.
Prefers to be offset to allow movement but you do whatever. Width: about a spare for width apart for more base. Offset, a steep back (heel to toe), strong hand to the rear. Half offset is fine also.
Later: drive step, load step.
Unlock the knees. Don't "bend," don't crouch, just unlock.
Need a bit of upper body lean, for recoil control. Just a bit. As much as you do when walking up stairs. If your toes start to curl, that's a sign you are far enough forward. Test positively by pulling heels up: if you can without moving, you area y on the balls of the feet alright.
Head upright. Breathe.
If you have to make him commit: Weaver. But you wouldn't think so. Because no one knows what it really is. Or, what isocelese is.
The Modern Technique is not fixed, but should be adaptive to improvements and new ideas.
He often teaches The Greg Stance, so no one brings baggage to "modified Weaver" etc. (Greg for Mr M____, standing in front of him,)
Hand placement is not grip.
Leverage: as high as we can get it. Both hands. Your can grip a Glock too high, get hit by the slide.
Hitchhikers thumb. At first draw grip.
If you put the thumb down, you loose height and friction. Thumb up!
Shooting finger and support thumb at same distance forward (when finger straight)
And now, grip: default grip is round. Need to consciously grip the front, pressing straight back with the shooting hand.
Anchor the tips of your support hand on the shooting hand, then crush with the rest of the grip. Crush the walnut.
No percentage. Squeeze harder with support hand. To match the strength of the strong hand. Shooting hand is STRONG hand. This makes you more balanced.
(Esp for me, with injury, this was notable and worked, but I needed to pay attention)
Squeeze as hard as you can. He's told someone in class maybe three times to squeeze less. Got a control problem, grip harder.
Men have a macho thing, think we can stop the gun from recoiling. Women do not (used one woman in class as example, with demo) Control, do not stop, recoil.
Make the gun do what you want. Be in charge.
He doesn't care how we manipulate the slide. He's an over the top guy, but if you are a slide stop or slingshot guy, go for it.
He's a press-reset guy. There are good ways to press-release so if you do that, okay. And, bad ways. Don't do that.
Release types are avoiding short stroke by missing soft reset (I think, high power, DAO Smith...)
Do not lock elbows. They keep you from using them for recoil control. Then, that doesn't get to your shoulders etc.
He looked at all our grips. I got no notes! Most others got some.
Drill, we shot from ready several times. Just, grip, process from there. Trigger/safety at decision to shoot, raise to target, fire, reset, fire.
Finger in trigger at sights on target isn't just slow, but causes shooting errors. Prep the gun do when it gets where it's going it's ready.
Your holes will be in the target forever. Go look at them later. Look at the gun, though the pull and recoil.
Same drill again. Better!
Any hit where you don't know it was there is concerning. Not that you missed, but that you don't know why you did that.
Tape frequently so you remember, can judge like this.
Eyes off drill:
Make everything perfect, then close eyes, fire two shots.
Fairly quick. Not hammer pair, but close to that fast. Too slow and things don't work.
Second shot should be right there an inch away or so. Unless your recoil control is off, your grip is off.
First hit should be perfect. Second is your recoil diagnosis.
Below means you pushed it there. High is just recoil, so natural and just work on the grip.
Don't do it again. Don't PRACTICE it. Use as a measuring tool to now change the grip.
Someone else had one like mine, off to the left low. So not recoil but another shooting error. But not a bad one.
Marking drill. Hand aligned with a point on the shooter shoulder. Show that you move back a bit after just a few shots.
Moving a bit forward is okay.
Shooting from flat feet actually moves people back. Too light on the balls, now you can get recoiled to flat then... whoops.
I did okay. Not great. Though my shooting (hits) is already much better. My partner did it right, so I was able to see it better. He also did it too much once, stumbled a bit, and even dropped the last shot a few inches lower.
When adding speed, do not lose accuracy.
Shoot sooner, not faster.
Two seconds is two seconds. The time it takes to get the gun out is only relevant to you getting force to the target.
Don't think about fast. Be fast.
Draw real fast, but wobble, adjust, takes 2 seconds to get a hit
Go slow, but precise. The moment the sights are on target you are ready to fire and hit. Two seconds.
Draw speed is not one thing. Accelerate, brake.
Most people stop the gun when they run out of arms. Then the gun bounces.
Good demo he does of this. Very slow looking presentation that's faster that the quick draw one.
Shoot sooner (as soon as you can...)
Speed is not based on effort in this class, but time.
- Quick to gun
- Quick to clear
- Coast to up
- Brake till Stop when out
This really put together the punch to target phase, and i shot this really well, but for one time i forgot recoil control because that's how i work, too much focus, bad at the "putting it all together."
Getting the hand on the gun:
Push, with open hand, when the web hits, you activate the bear trap, closing the hand around the gun.
Whichever step of the presentation you are on is the most important part? The step you are on.
If you miss a step like fuck up the grip, stop and fix it. Don't keep going in to the next step.
Once done, don't think about failures in previous step. Do the best you can at the moment your are in.
Anchor the fingers of the support hand before crushing.
- Touch (touch the: fingers to other hand, fingers wrap around, trigger)
- Push in
Pressure on front is as much as you need, to stop where you want to. Press the brake to stop wherever. Can press harder to do retention etc
Move both hands at once, but if anything leads, support hand first.
Make sure support hand is the right height or your draw will chase it.
He does not believe that adding speed is intently less accurate
Let's consider a headshot. Can you use the coast/brake thing to do high difficulty headshots? Sure. You just change the speed of the brake. Demo, did it very slow and no slower than draw them aim aim aim.
The difficulty of a shot is defined by the penalty if a miss.
More shooting from the holster fast fast slow
Lecture, demo, then drill, steering drill I say, he calls 4-to-5 drill. From rotated, finish grip and push in to target. For a bonus, first look directly at the sight, then up to use peripheral vision to acquire it.
This is all in opposition to the center-punch-out types. Steering is critical, and the gun starts above the holster, not in the center of your body.
At some point, speed becomes part of your tactics. You know you can draw and hit so fast, and you can predict tha, plan for it.
- Touch the trigger
- Take the slack out
Fast is fine, but it's always these three steps.
You have to apply more pressure to the trigger than it weighs. Our holding the gun providers the counter force.
Prep means you take up lots of the slack, and the remaining needed to fire is less than the gun weight.
Drill: take up, then beep and see how fast you can accurately hit.
Also: it's faster. Your brain response time is the same, but the physiological response is a tiny bit faster.
Yup, you apply pressure as you start to push forward
Drill with gun out, and then on draw.
Bonus since we're awesome:
Complete the standard response at the end of the draw stroke. A bit early, as soon as you can see the sights, fire. Recover and at end of draw stroke you are right on.
Now, drill to stop and fire at half extension. Which... Many of us didn't do. But, we shot the above properly now. He tricked us into doing things right. Worked for me. I fell for it.
PS you can't do the thing with two shots on the extension. I mean some can, but not normal humans.
I keep not getting corrections, but apparently am doing well because i got a specific Good Job after this and once earlier. I guess I'm fine.
More on the draw. It's a zillion actions, but if taught it all, even with other tricks like work on current step.
So, he emphasizes things like first touches, because it tends to make the rest of it work right, and you don't slow down to think about it.
Why is two shots the standard response? Two doubles the chances, if those didn't work, three won't either.
NSR, originally the Mozambique, renamed and modified to remove the assessment by LAPD. Failure To Stop.
From now on: after two to the body, go to the head. We decide if shooting the head ourselves, based on bad body hits. Good hits, two only.
Conscious! Not automatic/autonomous
Follow the bad guy down.
Evaluate. If he's out of the fight, check the gun. In battery, smooth.
Then, go look for more trouble.
He sees lots of students scanning at slide lock.
Scan. Not search. Not with the gun. Quicker.
Manage the gun. If halfway down, charge it.
Told that I'm still not shooting at extension but pausing. True. Loves everything else about my draw, which is shocking to me.
Smooth is fast
Fast is fast
Sprinters don't practice with marathons; use fast techniques
Don't think fast. Think technique.
For example: how to go really fast? Make sure the support hand is ready to snap up.
Drill a bit further back
Drill, compare old and new technique on single head shots
What's a lull in the fight:
His criteria to allow a tac load.
- a reason to retain the magazine
- a safe place
- enough time. Double the time you expect it to need
Procedure for the tac reload:
Mag change with retention. Take mag out, put it away, get a fresh mag
What he does is get the fresh mag first, pop the old mag out, retaining if, put told one in not a pouch.
Put it where to can get back to it. Cargo pockets, hard to get it back out of.
He likes waistband (I hate it)
All loading from the front pouch. No tricky stuff about speed to front, tac to rear.
Fresh mag first! So, one technique only!
Flip and grip. To hit the mag release strongly, with the tip of his thumb.
Once loaded, rotate wrist, use gravity to help regrip.
"You have no idea how little I care how the gun gets closed."
My question: He's NEVER seen a gun not feed when the slide auto forwarded. So, trust it.
Did these a bunch of times.
Break/lecture under the sun shade.
We aren't doing it this weekend, but let's talk about left side barricade shooting. Only shoot left handed if you are 80% as good. Otherwise, lean.
80 is his sense of experience. Not a scientifically based number.
He's not big on always moving during a mag change etc.
Move when it makes your situation better. Otherwise, do not waste the time etc.
Steve has himself had an open breech detonation. Scars, brass in his hand. Do NOT catch the round while unloading.
He had another! Not with his hand over the ejection port, but the brass fragmented oddly and still injured himself.
"You guys are awesome!"
Normally he'd insist on dry practice, but it's a 2 day class. If we do it anyway, which we should:
Do something! If 30 min is hard, do 10. Or 5. Hell 1 minute. As long as you do it.
He does 5 x 3 minute sessions.
- 3 of just the grip.
- 3 of just trigger preloading on extension
- 3 of the 4-to-5 drill, to hammer fall
- 3 of full presentation
- 3 of mag changes
Live Fire Drill Cards. From lots of folks. Then you can pick things that work.
Because, always try to make practice productive. Plinking is fun, fine, but practice has to be directed, useful, measurable.
Lots of stuff reviewed from TD1, mostly not gonna take notes on that.
Drills today: start having a bit more umph, alacrity. Speed, but he won't say it of course.
When you stop the gun, just press the trigger. If you miss, in class, oh well. Something to learn. Trust it. Over time it'll work, because you are learning the technique. (i saw a few of these just yesterday myself, surprisingly good results).
Again, speed is speed, not effort. If this seems like you are going slow, who cares if the timer says you are fast.
Revisiting, rethinking difficult shots overnight: yes, if needed then a tiny pause before shooting, with otherwise the same technique, should be the best answer.
Type 1 - Failure to fire:
- We don't care why. If it does anything but go bang, Immediate Action. Tap, roll/rack. Just enough roll to see the side of the gun to make sure it's working, let stuff fall out. Also, similar to type 2, so less to remember.
Type 2 - Failure to eject
- Brass not all the way out. We, again, don't care why, we just need to fix it. Stovepipe was the typical mode for the 1911 and wiping was a method, but it doesn't work on all of them.
- Tap, roll, rack will work usually for this.
- If it doesn't go into battery, don't go on target, fix it. Now you are:
Type 3 - Worse Than IA Drill Clearing
- Not only double feed.
- Lock slide, pull mag out, even if force required.
- Retain the mag if needed. As close as you can. Fingers of shooting hand, armpit (me... Meh?)
- Rack, rack, rack:
- 1 close the gun
- 2 extract anything in the chamber
- 3 if the extractor is broken etc, two cycles may get it.
Note that sometimes 4-5 will get things extracted.
Don't rely on vision. If lots of stuff falls out, that may not be it all, so finish the process.
(All that has been my type 3 for years so I like seeing this described in detail. With low reliability shit like fof / blanks, I've had lots of malfs so got used to the needs of this full process).
The Glock Technique: NY reload I says. Get another gun kidding
Actually: his go to method for LE. Rip mag out, put mag back in, cycle it.
Risky. Can just make malf worse etc.
Q: cart sticking out of mag? Wipe it off and go. But this all only if we need to/ choose to use the same mag.
Kyle Lamb Technique: I missed this a bit. I guess the same rack rack rack stuff but drop the mag. Nope: start with hand on slide, ready to rack, drop the mag etc. Um.. okay. Not sure i got this even with the drill.
That makes you think, for his technique: as soon as you find a fresh mag, ignore the old mag. It does what it does. But if no fresh mag, get that old one.
Happened to someone else: locked up gun. Lock the slide, push (pop) the frame forward. Make sure you aren't in the way of the port.
3x5 blue cards.
Then, same target, focus on front sight. Watch and report where it goes under recoil 5 rounds. TRICK just to make you focus on front sight. Most groups dropped dramatically.
I had a stoppage. Failure to feed or maybe i just bumped the slide stop. Later... Found the type three trainer at my feet. I guess it stopped the gun and I cleared it without noticing. Good?
How do we improve? By measuring. This drill is another that lets you set a baseline.
Target with three bullseyes, etc.
Pick a realistic time that you can consistently draw and fire 1 round to a certain picked accuracy level.
Do that, practice and improve, until you can do that 90% of the time. Then, you change ONE of the measurements. Say, size, but you leave time alone. Repeat.
This is a measurement drill. You don't do it over and over, but check performance against it.
I chose 2 sec 9 ring. Missed first, made second. Need to try it more and see if I'm right or lagging.
The Prevail Challenge:
Special targets as shown here
- 3 strings, one for each of the targets
- Left Right center, 1 round each
- Middle target, anywhere in the 8 is a hit. Triangle or square, hit that.
- Right center left, 2 each
- Center, either side then other, three per.
- Any shots that miss is a zero. Every shot in, no makeups.
Par for them to get the special badge is 13 sec total time.
I... Did not do well.
Type 3 malf tool. The aluminum thing here
To make sure it works too induce type 3 malfs, you need the most spring pressure so put it 2 down from the top. In the middle, it might just induce other types. As it did for me, preventing the top round from feeding.
Do also be careful about the round on top getting the bullet set back by bad feeding, and if repeating it, can be dangerous. Use a plastic dummy.
Other ideas he's done: use a .40 one. It's not supposed to feed, so okay and more surface to grab I guess.
Steve is the exclusive dealer for them, but he's buying the patent, in a few weeks, so will literally own them. Will be easier to buy and use sometime in the near future, but he has a few to sell now if you want them. Will do training for agencies, etc.
Prevail Challenge version 2
- Same target, one string
- Start with three in gun
- Emergency reload after string 1
- Tactical reload after string 2
If he had to pick one, trigger control or holding the gun really still, the later. From Robbie Latham. This confused some of us who believe in wobble zone etc. But he demonstrated it and lectured a bit.
Step back drill about that
Dot Torture timed step back
Prevail, mode 2, once more. I did pretty good this time but not good enough to time.
Redoing the video evaluation thing, so we can compare what we learned with how we started:
- Single shot draw 1.87 vs 2.12 at start (Used me as example to the class of how the technique improves. I looked casual but much faster)
- Bill. 3.63 vs 4.10
- 2 by 2 … didn’t get the time for that recorded