AAR: CTT-Solutions (Mike Pannone), “Covert Carry”, Sig Sauer Academy, February, 2015

This post is going to be a follow-up to Robert’s AAR of Mike Pannone’s CTT-Solutions Covert Carry class. If you haven’t yet read his AAR, follow the link and read it first. I will attempt to avoid repeating everything that Robert covered, instead sharing what I hope to be my own unique perspectives from the same class in a different venue.

I took Covert Carry at the Sig Sauer Academy in Epping, NH in February of this year, largely based on Robert’s positive experience and recommendation. I was not disappointed! I have to say, by far, this has been my favorite and most valuable training experience to date. Pannone is an incredible instructor who breaks things down into immediately relevant and understandable pearls of wisdom. I already had a great deal of training under my belt before taking this class and I still learned a tremendous amount, even if it was just reinforcement or refinement of previous learning. Almost immediately after the class, I signed up for another class offered by Pannone later this year. That’s how impressed I was!

I should stress that this is not a beginner’s class… You should have a firm foundation of gun handling experience including drawing from a holster as well as being able to demonstrate safe gun handling prior to enrolling. Pannone mentioned more than once that he only teaches advanced and instructor level classes. This is not to say that you necessarily have to be an advanced student or instructor to participate, just to emphasize that Pannone brings an incredibly competent and cohesive ability to impart the fundamentals to the class while teaching advanced techniques. Indeed, he teaches simple and effective techniques that rely on mastery of the fundamentals, which is what an advanced class really is anyway.

I was fortunate to be able to take the class at the Sig Sauer Academy, as we primarily used the indoor range and therefore had access to multiple steel targets on each lane, rotating timed target holders, and low-light capability. The indoor range does require frangible ammunition, but the academy staff generously offered to trade ammunition round for round for those of us that had brought our own. After doing the math, I took them up on that offer!

Since Robert covered the various drills introduced in the class quite comprehensively in his own AAR, I will instead offer a general conceptual overview rather than specifics.

We began the day in a classroom in the range building where Pannone first introduced himself, we signed some paperwork, and he covered some administrative details and discussed some simple principles to adhere to when carrying a weapon covertly. As Robert detailed in his review, Pannone distinguishes between concealed and covert. Also as mentioned, Pannone has a unique ability to distill concepts down to elegantly simple and efficient tactics and techniques. An example of this is his advice to first avoid confrontation if possible, then to evade potential conflicts if you can, and finally to defend yourself and your team/family as a last resort. Being a medic, I remember this advice with the mnemonic A.E.D. (Automatic External Defibrillator – both meanings can save a life!). He also emphasized that different holsters and garments each have their own unique characteristics, and advised us to practice ten draws before walking out of the door each day to identify any problems with our carry system.

Moving to the range, we covered a great deal of material in the next two days. One of my major takeaways was that one should recognize the difference between drills and scenarios. An example of this is that scanning and assessing in drills is a worthless and bad habit since you learn to just do the motion without actually seeing anything. Instead, incorporate the scan and assess into a scenario, where you are forced to think and evaluate a constantly evolving situation. Regarding scanning, he specifically advised us to scan from retention and if necessary punch out the gun to shoot again. As I will briefly discuss later, much of the material that Pannone teaches is geared towards operating in confined space, where weapon retention is paramount.

I also had a light bulb moment when he discussed and demonstrated body mechanics and its relation to point shooting in close quarter reactive situations. In short, the forward toe leads the pelvis, and by stepping toward the target, you automatically align yourself with the target. The advantage of this is that you minimize windage deviation when shooting from below the line of sight. Furthermore, elevation deviation is less of a concern, as there are multiple vital targets along the vertical axis of an attacker. All of this squared (no pun intended) with my experience from a prior force-on-force class. (See Robert’s AAR of that class here.)

Pannone stressed that one should examine techniques and tactics within the framework of “what works and where are the failure points?” When training, always qualify the exercise. A fast miss is still a miss! Surgical accuracy was emphasized throughout the course, both for liability reasons as well as for producing the desired result. One of the things that I really enjoyed about Pannone’s teaching is that he can succinctly and conclusively explain WHY he teaches one method vs. another. Ultimately, Pannone stressed that simple is better and offers less failure points. In my opinion, this class was as much a techniques class as it was a surviving violent encounters tutorial.

His “confined space survival shooting” block is worth the price of admission alone, and is essentially the techniques that he helped to develop for the Federal Air Marshal’s training program. Imagine needing to shoot or reload one handed or with your support hand only while in the aisle of an aircraft, and you can start to appreciate the necessary simplicity and effectiveness of his techniques. Rather that detail them here, I will instead advise the reader to attend a Covert Carry class to learn and practice them firsthand!

The low-light block was also incredibly worthwhile, especially since I had not trained in low-light techniques since I attended Rangemaster under Tom Givens in the late 90’s. Pannone covers how to manipulate both a light and a magazine in the support hand during reloads, and covers moving while searching with a light and multiple methods to employ a handheld light with a gun. He discussed his preferences in flashlights and again advised that simple is better. In other words, you don’t need a light with strobes and fifteen different brightness settings! I had brought my programmable Streamlight Protac 1L and had disabled the multiple settings function of the switch prior to class. I’m glad I did as I wasn’t the one going down the line of targets alternatively illuminating them with different brightness levels! Invariably, when things go sideways, you won’t get the light output that you want if you have multiple options controlled by one switch! For multiple brightness switches, Pannone favors the lights that have a tail cap that offers momentary activation, with increasing pressure triggering the brighter setting. He teaches the head index and the Harries technique, with the choice of which to use being dependent on the situation.

Some other interesting tactical takeaways that were shared during breaks included the advice to draw and initially strike with a folded knife to stun the opponent and thus gain time to deploy the folder. Also related to pocket knives, a knife clip AND a flashlight clip essentially scream “GUN” to mindful observers. Standing bladed to a person can be seen as an aggressive stance. Rather, Pannone continually advised us to adopt a more relaxed and non-threatening posture with the weight applied unequally to one leg and with the arms crossed unobtrusively. I should mention that Pannone carried appendix in class, and the crossed arm position in conjunction with appendix carry offers an extremely fast draw while being relatively inconspicuous.

Pannone also explained how to safely handle weapons by managing the muzzle direction and being cognizant of the changing foreground and background anytime you’re trying to take a shot. I also really liked how he taught to unload a weapon. You can read a little more about these aspects in my previous post on firearms safety.

For the first day of class, I shot my RMR equipped Glock 19. For the second day, I switched to an essentially identical iron sighted Glock 19. I used Dale Fricke appendix inside the waistband holsters the entire time, with a spare magazine carried on my left side. As the name of the class indicates, everything was shot from concealment, with around 400-600 draws in two days! For some people, this was the most practice they were likely to get, and was thus of inestimable value. The class had a fair cross section of people and professions, with at least half the class being local NH law enforcement.

In conclusion, I would definitely train at the Sig Sauer Academy again, and I cannot stress how invaluable this class is to anyone that carries a pistol concealed or covertly. If you get the chance to train with CTT-Solutions and Mike Pannone, don’t pass up the opportunity!

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