Sentinel Concepts Practical Shotgun AAR [2024]

Sentinel Concepts Practical Shotgun

Steve Fisher of Sentinel Concepts is one of the few national-level instructors teaching shotgun today. While carbine and pistol courses primarily fill the schedule, a few scattergun courses appear each year. When I saw that Steve was teaching within a few hour's drive of my home, I couldn't let the opportunity pass me by. Reaching out to see if I could lend a hand on the range, Steve gave me the thumb's up to tag along. Practical Shotgun is his one-day, somewhat introductory course on the gauge. Let's check out the details on this class.

Location of Sentinel Concepts Practical Shotgun

The FARM Training Center, Fairfield, Utah

Weather

Weather began as overcast but quickly transitioned into intermittent sprinkles which lasted throughout the day. After lunch sprinkles then became snow which lasted well past the end of class time. Wind was mostly light, with a few gusts at the beginning of range time that knocked over a few paper target stands.

Equipment for Sentinel Concepts Practical Shotgun

Acting as an assistant for Steve throughout the class, my gear list is a little different than normal. I did not bring a shotgun, and my carry pistol stayed concealed all day. My staple gun was attached to my hip for paper target portions of class, with spare staples in a pocket. Additionally, a Combat Optic Tool and Pistol Mounted Optic Tool rode in a pocket for quick fixes, both lashed to a Retention Ring.

Sentinel Concepts Practical Shotgun
Steve explaining the process of building a proper high-ready position

Student equipment varied widely. While shotguns were the only firearms employed, some students had pistols riding in duty and training rigs. Shotguns included a single Benelli M1 and M4, a Mossberg 930, one Mossberg 500 and 590, four Remington 870, and four Beretta 1301. A single Kel-Tec KSG made an appearance for a single drill and could not complete the course of fire. Optics include an Aimpoint T1, Holosun 507C, 509T and AEMS, Trijicon SRO, and Steiner MPS.

All ammunition is 12 gauge throughout the weekend, buckshot and birdshot. Several students load from their pockets or dump pouches, along with a variety of side saddles. Some students have dedicated loaders such as the Safariland 085, and Wilderness Tactical Shell belt.

Personnel

There are twelve shooters in class, all men. Students come from as far as Illinois to attend, with most being from the local area. Ages range from mid-20's to mid 50's. Several are law enforcement, with the rest being a variety of home defenders eager to learn the gospel of the gauge.

Classroom Academics of Sentinel Concepts Practical Shotgun

Things begin in the classroom where Steve starts off with the purpose of this class, context for the shotgun, and an overview of the day's events. Next we go around the room getting introductions from students, along with the gear they've brought for the day. Many of the students have returned from the previous day's handgun and carbine courses, while others are newcomers, including one student with zero prior training.

Sentinel Concepts Practical Shotgun

To start the lecture, Steve goes through accessorizing the shotgun. This list comes in order of his priorities for outfitting a defensive shotgun. He goes in depth on white light selection, the four main types of shotgun sights, stock customization and aftermarket options, safety selectors, ammunition carriage, and slings. During this time Steve gives examples of failures and successes, and answers student's gear questions.

To close out the classroom portion of class, we cover patterning and ammunition selection, and safety considerations to include storage states. Finally, there is an overview of emergency response and range safety before making our way outside.

Range Time

Arriving onto the range, students dive into patterning their guns. Many have never done this before, and there are some adjustments to be made. Distances are 7, 15, and 25 yards, with in-between distances reserved for trouble shooting. Targets are B-8 Repair Centers on the high chest of cardboard USPSA silhouettes. Steve makes his way down the line checking work, diagnosing issues, and suggesting changes where necessary between distances. Once patterning is complete we swap the paper for steel targets.

Sentinel Concepts Practical Shotgun
Steve discussing the finer points of patterning

From here, Steve demonstrates proper technique for manipulating the slide-action of the shotgun. This improves speed, reduces sight deviation, and increases reliability instantaneously for several students, immediately engaging the group upon seeing their results. Following that, Steve discusses recoil control versus recoil management. As part of this portion, students work several iterations using two techniques to manage recoil.

I was impressed with how dramatically some students improved with just these two lessons, immediately going from muzzles wild to running the gun fast and flat. While their performance varied based upon focus and fatigue, I repeatedly witnessed impressive feats, even from those with zero prior shotgun exposure.  At this point we break for a quick lunch before returning to the range.

As an Aside

Between each lesson, Steve provides time for questions, along with asking the group their thoughts. This gives people time to reflect, and deepen their learning, with several students having "Aha!" moments through other's commentary. This continues all day, and is something that I don't often see in classes that I thought was well worth the time.

After Lunch with Sentinel Concepts Practical Shotgun

Returning to the range, Steve has students run through "Up" drills to practice manipulating the gun, ingraining the morning's techniques. Next, we cover two reloading techniques. These are the traditional support hand load with the stock still shouldered, and the Violin Load. Many students were unfamiliar with the Violin Load, but it was an instant hit, especially for those struggling to support the gun with a single hand. Discussion on gear setup takes place here, as students realize that loading techniques impact where ammunition needs to come from.

Sentinel Concepts Practical Shotgun
Steve having a student try guns with differing lengths of pull to demonstrate proper fitment

Having previously worked exclusively from Low Ready, Steve demonstrates his take on High Ready. His version features a much higher buttstock than I'm used to, which appears to be a very rapid way to mount the gun. This is in addition to improvements in access to controls. While I didn't get to try the technique for myself, it's certainly one I'm excited to experiment with. Next, students practice ready positions and loading techniques to solidify them, mixing and matching at will.

To conclude the range time, Steve runs students through three variants of Rolling Thunder. Each variation is more challenging than the last, adding complexities such as target transitions, increased round counts, and more. The shooting remains largely solid, but students quickly see how much work their reloading skills need during these drills.

Closing Out Class

To end the day, Steve demonstrates stoppage clearance. He covers common issues with both pump-action and semiautomatic guns, using a few examples of each. From here, he does a short Q&A session with students, then we conduct a brass-call for spent hulls. Before students depart, Steve hands out some swag, and we head home.

Final Thoughts on Sentinel Concepts Practical Shotgun

It was a great opportunity to get to be on this side of the firing line with Steve, and I appreciate the chance to lend a hand. Despite not being a student on the line, I still learned a ton from listening and watching. Steve's instruction made immediate improvements for students in class, and it was great to see how engaged he kept them despite the unpleasant weather.

If you're considering training with the shotgun, then give Sentinel Concepts a serious look. You can sign up for a class >>HERE<<

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If you made it this far, thanks for reading! Writing isn't my full-time profession, and nearly everything I do comes out of my own pocket. Between ammunition, tuition, range fees and more, expenses add up fast. If you like what I have to offer, consider making a donation to my Patreon.

Every bit helps bring more work like this to you, and contributes to shortened timelines or more in-depth work on my part. You'll also have more direct access to me, offering suggestions for future projects, looking behind the scenes, and getting early access to some content. You can find my Patreon >>HERE<<

About Daniel Reedy 394 Articles
Daniel holds instructor certifications from Rangemaster, Agile Training & Consulting, and the NRA. He has received training from Craig Douglas, Tom Givens, and Steve Fisher among others. He also has experience competing in USPSA, CAS, 3 Gun, and Steel Challenge. In his free time Daniel enjoys petting puppies and reading the Constitution. His work is also published by AmmoLand, Recoil Concealment, and Air Force Times. Daniel has also written and edited for The Kommando Blog.

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