A simple Google search will show you the background of Mike Pannone and his company, CTT Solutions. To keep things short, outside of his impressive military career, Mike spent time instructing the Federal Air Marshals Service (FAMS), which is what attracted me to the class. The Federal Air Marshal Service requires officers who can engage in a firefight from concealment, where hostages and obstructions define their workspace in sometimes very confined spaces. I believe these skills are not just beneficial, but mandatory for anybody that chooses to conceal carry a firearm. In my experience, too many people simply do not practice or train with their daily equipment much less from concealment. However, at this class, bringing your daily carry gun in your normal carry attire was part of the prerequisites! Tommy Judy (my mentor and lead instructor for Shoot Logic) has always spoken highly of the Air Marshalls shooting abilities after spending time with them, and I’ve wanted to experience that for myself ever since he piqued my curiosity. Well, I learned about Mike Pannone’s Covert Carry class and the rest is history.
Training Day 1:
Class started at 9:00am sharp with Mike introducing himself and describing the course outline. He shares what is expected of the students’ skill level (this was NOT a level 1 course), and what he expected the students to get out of the class. Then we got to work. The shooting part of the course started with a simple diagnostic at 5 yds. That was one of the few times that we would find ourselves at the 5yd line on day one. The rest of the day was spent on marksmanship at everywhere from 7-25yds including strong hand and weak hand only shooting. Mike is a firm believer in stressing fundamentals at distance as nobody will tell you to shoot faster if you need to. If you can shoot accurately at 25yds on demand, then you can do it at 5yds at a much faster pace. Every drill was shot on NRA B-8 Repair targets taped over a cardboard IPSC target, presenting the students with targets that required their best focus, as well as allowing us to keep casual score of our performance. It was amazing to see student’s respond to the simple premise of “keeping score” to hone their accuracy. Of course, some students either knew each other before hand or became friendly during the day, so some good-natured competition started to bring the best out of students throughout the weekend.
Very little “speed work” was used on day 1 and time was only used as a PAR to push students to find their own balance of speed and accuracy. Another aspect that I thoroughly enjoyed was Mike’s teaching style. To say Mike explained and demonstrated every drill would be an understatement. He made sure that the class understood the why, the how, and the origins of what we were learning. It was clear that Mike spoke from experience on what works, and what doesn’t in the real world. Of course, his demos were all from concealment. While not physically demanding, the class took shooting fundamentals to a whole new level for me as small precise targets at distance were the norm for this class . We ended with a simple walk back drill on a reduced IPSC steel target. I dropped out at 75yds with the winner shooting and hitting at 80yds. I ended the daylight portion of day one mentally exhausted. Good thing I take good notes.
We shot through lunch and ended early afternoon with Mike asking if we wanted to finish up with some one-handed drawing techniques or take a break and come back for some low-light instruction. The class gave an overwhelming consensus to low-light instruction. As it stays light longer this time of year we took an extended break and came back to be introduced to the flashlight techniques that Mike trusts. We started these techniques with it still being daylight in the interest of safety. Firearm training is a completely different animal in low light conditions and Mike wanted to be sure that everybody was being safe and had a grasp of the techniques before dark set in. Truly, I was surprised how different shooting and weapon manipulations are in the dark. Adding flashlight management into the mix was more complicated than I expected, especially when reloading. This was a true “light bulb” learning experience for me. I sincerely believe that if you have a flashlight as part of your defensive equipment, you need to learn the proper tactics for incorporating it into your toolbox.
During this time we were introduced to several techniques including the Harries, neck index, head index, FBI technique, and the push index (sometimes called “syringe”, this is where the light is held in-between two fingers like a syringe). We were shown these techniques, and we were shown the pros and cons of each with Mike finishing up with the two that he feels are the best overall. Those two being a head-index, and wait for it…Harries technique! Wait, that isn’t high speed! That’s some Miami Vice 1980’s crap! Who teaches Harries anymore? Well, Mike does, and when we started moving, and using it properly, the Harries proved itself a viable technique. It was easy to use and allowed all of the students to shoot accurately while moving and still being able to effectively use the flashlight for both identification and search and assessment work. Harries and the “head index” compliment each other well for the drills we worked on. It never fails to amaze me when range time proves what really works in the real world, and what “looks cool” but fails to deliver. The low-light portion concluded day one.
Training Day 2:
Training day two started at 9:00am. Mike started with a safety brief, recap of the previous day’s events, and how he thought class performed. Then once again, we got to work! I say, “work” because not because it was laborious, but because Mike runs an incredibly efficient class. You are expected to have an open mind, and push yourself to be better than you were when you arrived. This takes a willingness to put in above average effort. This is my kind of class, and this is the experience I want my students to have! Day 2 was “speed” and “awkward” day. The ”awkward” part was where we had to leave our comfortable stances and grips behind us and live in the world of one handed and weak handed shooting. The “Speed” portion of the class was based around lowering everyone’s time, but sacrificing as little accuracy as possible. Mike demoed everything at full speed (to show us what was possible), then again at “half speed” so we could understand how to meet his standards. Stringent speed standards were enforced, and for example, the class was expected to draw from concealment, make a head shot at 5-7 yards in less than 1.5 seconds. Students were expected to do this consistently throughout the day. We were tested several times after Mike demoed and began drills.
Mike demoed and explained indexing your front sight in a different way than I had been before. I have had instructors explain indexing, but never go further than “see what you need to see” (what the hell does that even mean?). Mike explained the neurologic mechanics of how your mind works, and how to translate the information you get from your vision to properly perform this skill. Of course, he demonstrated to prove that it was humanly possible. He then literally said, “Ok, it’s your turn.” We began indexing by really pushing the speed at 5-7yds and making sure we were doing it correctly before we began to move back to see what would happen at 12-25yds. It was pretty cool to actually see this done at distance and then be able to do it yourself as a student. Honestly, this was HUGE for me as I had been introduced to this concept before but never understood how it worked. I’ve seen that most “instructors” keep the distance at 3-7yds but never move further out. I literally started laughing when we were doing this drill because it was awesome having something finally “click”. Isn’t it amazing when everything falls into place and it becomes almost “easy”? I had a one of the biggest “aha” moments during this drill and it has forever changed how I spend my time at the range. It was awesome learning this much in one class.
We then went into drawing and reloading one handed and again given the pros and cons of different techniques. Mike stresses that choosing proper technique is often context based, meaning that we can’t dogmatically glue ourselves to one way on manipulating our equipment. Instead, we need to keep an open mind to problem solving based on what will work best in a particular situation. This led us into shooting from various positions from both the left and right side. All of this was part of the “awkward” part of the day. Again, eyes were opened as we shot kneeling, around barricades, lying down on either side of our body, and how to quickly and safely get into and out of position. As far as the one-handed techniques are concerned, I don’t think it would be fair to try and encapsulate them in written word. If you are interested, please contact me, and I will do my best to explain it at the range and live up to Mike’s high standard, or even better, take the class from the man himself.
To wrap the day up we were again tested on the one-shot draw times that we started with in the morning. There was a marked improvement in not only everyone’s time, but in everyone’s weapon manipulation at the end of the day. As always, Mike likes to end each block of instruction with a walk back drill. This time I dipped out at the 80yd mark which is OK with me. This was quite honestly one of, if not the best classes that I have ever attended. Goals were met and I went home with more than enough to keep me thinking on the drive home. I cannot recommend it enough and I look forward to training with Mike in the future, and I would honestly take this class again (or any of his other offerings) in a heartbeat. I hope Mike gets back to the NC area in the near future.