Presscheck Consulting No Fail Pistol AAR [2024]

Presscheck Consulting No Fail Pistol

This is an AAR of Presscheck Consulting’s March 2024 No Fail Pistol class.  Up front, this will be lengthy – I want to give you as complete a picture as possible.

Introductory Material for Presscheck Consulting No Fail Pistol

About the Instructor

Chuck Pressburg is a 26-year US Army veteran.  He spent most of his service in special operations units and deployed numerous times during the Global War on Terror.  Chuck has made the rounds of the podcast circuit and one can easily find discussions of some of his experiences.  His stories are his to tell and I will not tell them for him; he brings them up as teaching points, not to brag.  During his service, Pressburg was assigned to units where he would be fired if he failed to demonstrate acceptable on-demand performance.  That high-level performance in an environment with very serious consequences for failure is what drew me to his class.

While it's not an original opinion, I believe the lane of acceptable conduct when it comes to domestic firearms use is narrowing.  The voting public's tolerance for injudicious use of a firearm -- whether by law enforcement or private citizens -- is waning.  Pressburg's unique ability to contextualize marksmanship into real-world use of force is why he's been on my bucket list.

About Me

I have been actively seeking out firearms training for about a decade now.  Some of the technique-focused pistol classes I have completed include:

  • Rangemaster Intensive Pistol Skills (2018)
  • Sentinel Concepts RDS Handgun (2020)
  • Complete Combatant RDS Pistol (2021)

Additionally, I have taken application-based classes from Lee Weems, Randy Harris, Karl Rehn, John Murphy, Erick Gelhaus, and John Hearne.  I suck at competitive shooting but I have also dabbled in IDPA.  I consider myself an intermediate shooter.

Getting some practice in at 25 yards a few weeks before class  

The No Fail curriculum is pretty well-publicized at this point.  Students are aware (or should be aware) that the class involves a lot of shooting at B8s at longer ranges.  So as not to make a complete fool out of myself, I did a few practice sessions in the weeks before class.  Specifically, I shot a bunch of B8s at 25 yards freestyle and slow fire.  I added a timer to the mix.  Perhaps most importantly, I spent some dedicated time practicing one-handed shooting -- a deficient area for me.

A training class is not a "test" to "study" for.  However, my experience is that a solid base of fundamentals helps tremendously with learning.  While the fundamentals of marksmanship aren't something you ever really graduate from, worrying less about the basics means you can pay attention to the nuance.

Gear for Presscheck Consulting No Fail Pistol

I am of the opinion that a training class is not the place to test out your brand new anything.  Guns going down, holsters not working out, or new parts failing are all things which can derail your training experience.  To that end, I chose to bring boring stuff that I knew worked.

The Gun

I shot a Gen 5 Glock 17.  It was milled by Jagerwerks for a Leupold Deltapoint Pro in 6MOA.  Iron sights are Leupold's adjustable rear and a fiber optic front.  The gun also has a magwell, a KKM barrel, and a Glock Performance Trigger.  I chose this gun because it is the easiest to shoot pistol I own and I know it to be very reliable.  Put another way, I chose it because I wouldn’t have to spend extra mental effort worrying about the gun.  I brought ten 17-round factory mags and I shot CCI Blazer 147gr ammunition for most of the course.

Support Gear

I brought a Dark Star Gear AIWB holster and shot the course from concealment.  For spare magazines, I used the Raven Concealment Kari pouch and the Raven Concealment Lictor double mag pouch.  The Kari is ambidextrous and adjustable for cant, which is a neat feature.  The Lictor is somewhat universal for double-stack 9mm mags, but otherwise it doesn't really stand out.  The course packing list called for either cargo pants or a dump pouch to store loose ammo.  I’m not a cargo pants kind of guy, so I purchased a Bushcraft Dump Pouch from Helikon Tex.  The Helikon Tex dump pouch does dump pouch stuff and it's also sized well for most water bottles.  My gear was supported by a Wilderness Tactical Swift belt in five-stitch flavor.

Before this class I had never shot a class indoors and was unsure what to expect regarding noise levels.  I made sure to double up on hearing protection with a set of Surefire EP3s under my Sordins.  The packing list called for spare batteries for all electronics on hand, as well as the necessary bits and threadlocker for my optic and iron sights.   I also carried a small cleaning kit.  Finally, just in case, I had a second gun with me.  A two-day class from a reputable trainer is an expensive proposition for most folks.  There is no good reason to have your class derailed by an equipment issue you are unable resolve.

The Facility

The class was hosted at Outpost Armory in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.  Outpost Armory is a very modern facility and I had no complaints about it.  We had a full bay to ourselves and the staff did a great job of making sure we were uninterrupted by customers.  As stated previously, the range is an indoor range.  We did miss out on some instruction due to the limitations of an indoor range, but that is not the facility's fault.  I will get into this in more detail below, but if I could change one thing about the class, it would be to take it at an outdoor range.

Training Goals for Presscheck Consulting No Fail Pistol

I went into the class with several goals.  First, I wanted to learn how to shoot strong hand only well.  Single-handed shooting is a weak area for me and I have little dedicated instruction on that point.  Second, I wanted to improve my throttle control.

The Class

To dispel a myth, I'll start out by saying that the course calls for a grand total of 70 rounds to be fired slow-fire from 25 yards.  Shooting bullseye targets does not mean it is a bullseye shooting class.  With that out of the way, Pressburg calls for between 800 and 1200 rounds to be fired during the course.  The course is mentally demanding and, frankly, exhausting.  I'll discuss my experiences with the course here.

Living up to the course's reputation, the first thirty rounds of each day were slowfire B8s.

Lecture

Like most good courses, Pressburg begins with lecture.  His lecture focus is on the what and why behind No Fail.  I found Chuck to be a very engaging lecturer.

What is No Fail?

No Fail Pistol is designed to be a mirror.  Pressburg is open about the fact that he is not there to teach you how to shoot.  His goal is to impart self-awareness.  Pressburg provides an environment for you to apply your shot process to a situation and find the outer limits of what you can get away with.  The point of this is to give you a frame of reference to decide whether you "got this" or whether you need to change conditions before taking a shot.

Along the way, he helps you identify signals which tell you things are coming unglued.  Many of these signals are found in the behavior of your optic.  The visual feedback your optic provides is the like vibration coming through the pedal telling you the brakes are about to fail.  For example, you can only spend so much time with a trigger prepped before things start to break down.  My red dot rapidly bouncing from 7 o'clock to 4 o'clock is a clue I'm spending too much time at the wall loaded.  The solution is to back off and re-prep the trigger, going deeper into the trigger than the last time.

What Pressburg wants is simple.  He wants you to check in with the datapoints your sights are providing you.  He wants you to recognize those signals that you are about to break a bad shot and pump the brakes.  And, if given time and opportunity, he wants you to improve your connection with the gun so as to increase hit probability.  Simple is not the same as easy.

Tactical Anatomy

"Tactical anatomy" -- where and why to shoot people -- was discussed.   The human body is great about communicating pain: "hey, you are getting shot and this really hurts and you should stop."  However, certain people -- when sufficiently inebriated, infuriated, or committed -- can and will ignore those signals.  Your pistol is not pepper spray and you cannot rely upon pain compliance to stop that sort of individual.  Pistols are "lower-case L" lethal force: their relative lack of power means you just don't have much room for error in shot placement.

While none of the tactical anatomy material was new to me, what was new was Pressburg's discussion on why not to target the head.  I do not want readers to misinterpret an error in my words for his so I will not detail his reasoning.  Suffice to say that Pressburg does not consider headshots an easy answer to the relative lack of lethality pistols provide.  He is not anti-headshot, but life is a lot more complicated than "just shoot them in the face."

Students are generally expected to hold 80% of their shots to the black of an NRA B8 target.  The black of the B8 is significant because it simulates the areas of the body most likely to force incapacitation, which one reason why it is so heavily used.

Shooting during Presscheck Consulting No Fail Pistol

Pressburg believes that trigger control is the primary means of mitigating flinching.  If shooters rely upon their support hand alone to do that, that will work until it doesn't -- such as when the support hand is injured or occupied.  Students are expected to be able to complete every exercise in the class freestyle, strong-handed, and weak-handed.  Again, the course is designed to give you a frame of reference for whether you "got this" or not.  You need to know that even if (perhaps especially if) your strong arm is incapacitated, and even if your support arm is occupied by your infant child.

Chuck explains trigger control in the form of green, amber, and red zones.  The green zone is your trigger's pretravel.  There is no accuracy benefit to it, which is why it's green: it's encouraged to rush through it to spend time on what matters.  Amber is the point where trigger bars and cruciforms and sears and springs begin to engage; some caution is warranted as you move through here.  Red is the zone of the fully prepped trigger: only a small amount of movement is required to discharge the firearm, and the most caution is warranted here.  The reason he wants us to prep the trigger to the red zone before firing is to give ourselves the least amount of time to flinch.  This is an area that, bluntly, I will need to work on -- I wasn't very good at it in anything but slow fire.

Some Improvement

One area where I saw significant improvement was in my ability to call shots.  Prior to attending this course, I thought I knew how to call shots.  Here, I actually saw it.  Shot calling is picking the frame of your sight movie that occurs immediately before the shot breaking.  Where your sight was in that frame is where your shot should be.  We were not necessarily taught how to call our shots, we were just told to do it.  I'd chalk the improvement up to recognizing the signals my gun is sending me and repetition.  I'm not anywhere near as precise as Chuck's "11 o'clock line break on the 10 ring" abilities, but I can now tell the difference between a 9-ring and a 10-ring shot.

Chuck would stand over your shoulder and watch your shot break.  Because he saw the impact, he knew where it went.  He would ask you where your shot went and tell you if your call was right or wrong.  

Pressburg adds layers of complexity to the shooting drills to force progression.  You start from ten shots in ten minutes at 25 yards, with the object being the ten best shots of your life.  You progress to presenting to that target and firing, then pairs, and multi-shot strings.  Drawstroke is added because misses frequently occur after significant gunhandling events.  The shooting exercises were not magical.  One I particularly liked was the 1-5 accelerator drill, where students draw and fire one, draw and fire two, draw and fire three, and so on.  We did not fire a shot closer than 15 yards on TD1.  On TD2, we did fire some shots from 10 yards using our weak hands.

Pressburg imparting strong-hand only wisdom while hydrating.

Feedback and Experimentation

I mentioned that the course is not designed to teach you how to shoot and that is absolutely true.  However, I would be remiss if I did not point out that Pressburg still provides shooting feedback.  For example, he gave a thirty-minute lecture on strong-hand only shooting that was worth every dollar of the tuition paid.  Chuck provides a buffet of options which may assist you in single-handed shooting.  He provides room for you to experiment.  One of the pieces I took away was a technique which engages my lats to provide stability and recoil control.  Another was an adjustment to how much I cant the gun during one-hand firing -- applying far less cant (about 5 degrees) than I'd been exposed to.

Pressburg espouses that your wobble zone is the barometer of your ability to make a shot.  If you cannot keep the gun sufficiently stable to stay within the target area, either find a way to stabilize it better or move closer.  In Chuck's world, target size -- and not distance -- dictates the difficulty and speed of the shot.  This was something of a mindset shift for me: previously, it was distance that tended to modulate things for me.

Reserve Chutes

Again, students were expected to complete every task in the course freestyle, strong-handed, and weak-handed.  This meant that the morning of TD2 was mostly spent shooting weak-handed.  Chuck's logic for so much focus on weak-handed shooting is that it's something like a reserve parachute.  As Pressburg explains, paratroopers in the US Army conduct several hundred parachute jumps every single year.  Due to a system of redundant safety checks, there fewer than ten annual failures for the parachute to open.  Nevertheless, every paratrooper in the Army jumps out of the plane with a big, heavy reserve parachute because the consequence of that extremely unlikely parachute failure is catastrophic.

Weak-handed shooting is kind of like our reserve parachute.  If you are using it, it's because your primary arm has been injured and yet you still need to continue to fight.  It doesn't really matter until it matters -- at which point it becomes your only option.

Weak-hand shooting at 25 yards is... difficult.

Transitions

Pressburg had students practice wide target transitions.  He encourages students to dart the eyes to the target and then bring the sights to that point.  Wide transitions force the shooter to do this -- and if they do not, it will be quite obvious.  I found his discussion of the visual transitions necessary during a force decision to be particularly enlightening.  The shooter first looks to the subject's hands and demeanor -- does this person have the capacity and intent to harm me?  The next transition is to the target's heart.  If one is shooting a weapon which has mechanical offset, the final transition is to a point on the target to account for that offset.  We finished the target transitions with the Blake Drill, which is the first half of an El Presidente.  Again, the purpose of this was to get us more time transitioning between targets.

Criticisms of Presscheck Consulting No Fail Pistol

The one thing I would change about the course is the venue.  There was nothing wrong with Outpost Armory.  However, any indoor range will limit the instruction and training opportunities.  Students taking the course in the future would be well-served to take it at an outdoor range.

Pressburg prefers to use steel targets for most of the afternoon.  They are used because misses are readily apparent to the student and observers.  Steel also doesn't have to be taped or refaced.  Unfortunately, steel cannot safely be shot at most indoor ranges.  Because this is No Fail pistol, shooters were held accountable for every round fired.  That meant every round outside a scorable area got taped and targets were frequently replaced.  Because we could not use steel, Chuck improvised his transitions instruction with paper.  To be clear, he did the best he could with what he had; however, we lost a lost of time taping targets.  This lost time meant that we did not get to shoot on the move.

Another consequence of the constant re-facing was fewer overall reps on the afternoon of TD2.  It was very obvious that several hundred rounds would have been fired if we had steel available.  As it stands, I fired a total of 614 rounds in class -- far lower than the 800-1200 round estimate provided on the website.  Having said that, students should absolutely bring the recommended amount of ammunition.  I believe my class was an outlier with regards to the inefficiencies on the afternoon of TD2.

Equipment Observations

I had no gun-, ammunition-, or gear-related issues during the course.  When shooting one-handed, I learned the trigger reach on my pistol is too much for me with the GPT.  I will be removing that from my gun and going back to a factory trigger shoe.  Students showed up with a wide variety of firearms.  Optics ruled the day, and only two shooters used an iron-sighted gun for any significant part of the course:

  • M&P 1.0 with fixed irons - switched to G17 Gen 4 duty gun with irons on TD2 (switched by choice)
  • M&P 2.0 with Holosun EPS - switched to another M&P variant with RMR (optic issue -- optic lost zero)
  • G19 with direct-milled 507C v2 (optic issue -- optic came off gun)
  • P320 X5 variant of some sort - switched to iron sighted Staccato for TD2 (unknown issue with pistol/optic)
  • 2x Staccato Ps with ACROs
  • 1x 5" Staccato with DPP
  • Several G45s with RMRs
  • Chambers Custom 2011 variant
  • My G17 Gen 5, discussed above
Most students shot from duty belt or battle belt configuration.  Myself and the shooter with the milled G19 shot the course entirely from concealment, and the shooter with the X5 variant switched to concealment on TD2.  No obvious gear issues presented themselves.  Chuck had a MBX magazine begin to lose its baseplate but he caught it before an issue presented itself.  Some of the shooters had stoppages during the weak-hand only firing and the occasional bad round presented itself.
However, at least three guns/optics went down in a significant manner.  This represented a full 25% of the students in the class experiencing a major gun issue.  I strongly suspect the optic issues were a result of mounting errors.

Conclusion on Presscheck Consulting No Fail Pistol

I believe the instruction is worth every penny.  While I thought I understood the course before I enrolled, it wasn't until I got there that I truly got it.  It's not a shooting instruction course (though the class does obviously provide some instruction).  It's a reality check to help you identify whether you can actually address the shot presented to you.  That self-awareness can't be purchased -- it has to be learned.  Pressburg's class is a safe venue to learn that self-awareness.

Would you want to reside in one of the townhomes downrange from Deputy Acorn?

This is the first private training class I have attended where police significantly outnumbered the private citizens.  I was happy to see such a heavy police presence because I believe American law enforcement has a pressing need for the Gospel of Chuck.  As I write this AAR in early March 2024, I'll note that it's already been a pretty rough year for public perceptions of law enforcement -- and we're barely 60 days in.  Pressburg's message of shooter accountability and the emotional maturity to recognize "I don't got this" would represent a necessary mindset shift.

A Final Note

Finally, I think this merits mentioning: Chuck is Chuck, and he is fully himself in his teaching role.  He is obviously very comfortable applying lethal violence to other human beings.  Students should be mentally prepared for very frank discussions of that subject.  The consequences for failure when violence is called for are not theoretical for him.  At times, he provides levity to a deadly serious topic; elsewhere, he paints a graphic and visceral picture of what the task may necessitate.  I note this not to criticize but to forewarn: some people could very well find some of Pressburg's material shocking.  That is not me saying not to take his class, because I think you should.  I am saying that a potential student should be prepared to encounter that.commend Presscheck Training and Consulting's classes without reservation and I would absolutely train with Pressburg again.

If you want to train with Chuck Pressburg, you can find Presscheck Consulting >>HERE<<

1 Comment

  1. This is one of the best AAR of no fail pistol I have read. I will have to keep this article on hand for whenever someone asks about NFP. I’ve tried to explain what the class is about in my
    own words but it just didn’t do it justice.

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