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Training Review: CSAT’s Tactical Pistol Operator

Topic: Shooting, Pistol

Instructor/System: CSAT is a shooting and tactical training center in Nacogdoches, Texas, a few hours from Houston or Dallas. The school has classes for both law enforcement and civilians. The founder and lead instructor is Paul Howe. Paul spent a career in the US Army and was an assaulter with Delta; his demeanor is that of a ‘quite professional’ with no fuss, chest-beating, or ego. His approach to shooting is simple, functional, and focused on the basics. The CSAT pistolry method is essentially Modern Technique, but Paul is not terribly dogmatic about minor deviations from that. Paul works hard to ensure that CSAT skills are all inter-operable, meaning nothing in any class should be antithetical or incompatible with skills learned in other CSAT classes.

Paul is also the author of Leadership and Training for the Fight, an excellent book on leadership that’s applicable both inside and outside the military.

Content: Tactical Pistol Operator is a two-day long course aimed at proficiency in combat shooting, meaning center of mass not bullseyes. It teaches Paul’s shooting system and his series of drills used to build and maintain proficiency with a pistol using that system. The focus of the class is on a series of drills that compromise Paul’s pistol “Standards,” which are published on the CSAT website. Essentially, this is shooting various shot combinations on a mix of targets and from various ready positions, with some failure drill, gun handling, and positional work included. Some drills not included in the CSAT Standards are discussed also, typically to troubleshoot various issues or refocus on some particular element of marksmanship.

The methods are taught in a crawl/walk/run methodology, typically starting with dry fire. Paul is a tremendous advocate of dry-firing, not just for military shooters but also for civilians who may have limited range time. He often reiterated that dry-fire training of the draw/high ready/first shot is eminently trainable at home and, even in absence of anything else like shot-to-shot follow-up, will likely give the trainee a fast, reliable first shot hit.

Paul’s own gear setup, and the class, emphasize simplicity. Glock 9mm pistols, iron sights on carbines, a simple Safariland drop-leg holster, etc. There’s no fancy, high speed gear. If a drop-leg holster slides on your belt, changing the entry angle for drawing your pistol, it’s taped to the belt. If that drop-leg holster sits too low and requires extraneous movement to access, it gets cut and moved higher. Pretty, no. Functional, yes.

The full set of Standards are shot multiple times during the course, with timing recorded. Beyond the Standards, the class also includes Paul’s barricade method and practice with barricade shooting. Like everything else in Paul’s system, the emphasis is on simplicity. The position used for barricade work matches the positions used in all other pistol shooting. There’s no sort of funny contortions as seen at many other shooting schools.

Overall, this is a superb class to take someone who’s learned the basics of marksmanship and start them down the path of a robust, simple, repeatable shooting platform that’s going to grow — without changes — to include more advanced work, the addition of a carbine, etc. For the trainee interested in combat shooting, there are only a few instructors in the country worth training with. Paul is one of them.

RMSR Recommended: Yes.

Pre-requisites: Despite being a “level one” class, you need to have already learned basic marksmanship, basic gun handling, and ideally have some experience shooting with a time component. This is not a class for true beginners, but it should come early in your learning before you learn rotten shooting platform/system habits somewhere else.

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