It is a brutal and ugly look at the other end of the gun and forces you very soon in your love affair with shooting to decide if it’s even worth it. I would equate it to going on a first date with someone you find incredibly attractive and are enamored with, then hearing about every bit of ugliness and trauma from every breakup ever, all before appetizers are done.

A.A.R. (After Action Report)

Date: 08/09/2014 – 08/10/2014
Location: Cheshire County Fish & Game, Keene, NH
Course: Modern Defensive Handgun (CFS Combat Focus Shooting)
Instructor: Matt Devito
Min. Round Count: 900 Rounds

There is a side of firearms training most of us will either never see, or do not care to see. CFS is the side of training that tells us in colorful and descriptive language the psychological, physical and emotional impact of being drawn into a defensive use of our carry weapon, concealed or otherwise. It is the side that explains how the body and mind react when a “gun solution” is your only option left. When the talking, screaming and cursing is done and your fight or flight response kicks in because you are now in a critical event and fear for your life… what happens next? Are you actually prepared?

I have been to numerous trainings, talked and listened to many instructors and consider myself above average at drawing a firearm, shooting, reloading, malfunction handling and (believe it or not) movement compared to the average gun owner. I consider myself fairly versed in course outlines, courses of fire and stacking drills to incorporate prior lessons with new ones to keep the mind working. I will tell you this, that all came in handy but still did not prepare me for how Matt Devito and the Modern Defensive Handgun is approached by CFS. It is an unapologetic, put you in your place and step outside of your comfort zone course. Plain and simple.

Let me get one thing out of the way, and I will explain this next statement. I do not recommend a Modern Defensive Handgun (or CFS) Course as your first ever professionally taught course. There, I said it. I do not recommend CFS as your 8th or 9th course either. Just my personal opinion and here is why.

From a consumer standpoint, this is scary class to be your first. Most people are excited about their new firearm, feeling empowered and ready for anything because you now own a gun. You have taken it to the range alone or with friends and gotten used to how it operates, how to reload it, what happens when you pull the trigger etc. You decide it’s time to take a course and learn more about how to draw the firearm, how to carry it, how to deal with malfunctions, whatever. That is awesome, and a crucial step in gun ownership and being a responsible citizen. But nonetheless, it is a first step.

CFS will make you question if you are actually prepared to handle a critical situation, or even wish to pursue the knowledge at all. Will it turn you into a single lane shooter for funsies at your local favorite range or will it make you re-assess whether you even want to own a firearm at all? It is a brutal and ugly look at the other end of the gun and forces you very soon in your love affair with shooting to decide if it’s even worth it. I would equate it to going on a first date with someone you find incredibly attractive and are enamored with, then hearing about every bit of ugliness and trauma from every breakup ever, all before appetizers are done.

So, if I conveyed my reasons effectively I hope you understand that I am not bashing this course or saying it is not worth taking, quite the contrary. I am merely looking through the eyes of my wife, my friends who want to learn more who haven’t taken a course anywhere. I formulated my opinion based on their threshold or tolerance for bitter truths in this world as well as pride or ego. I would recommend letting a basic pistol instructor at a generic 01 course open your mind first. Fumble through a stove pipe or double feed malfunction there and break the ridiculous notion that you are a master of the gun universe before we get on the gas and do it while moving. Before doing it all while analyzing and thinking about environment and those around you. As Matt Devito says though, hope is not a method. So since I hope you get it, please keep reading, there is more to this course than meets the eye.

I had stated earlier that I would not recommend CFS for anyone for their 8th or 9th course either. Let me add some detail and clarity on that statement. I would not recommend a CFS course for anyone without an open mind to take this course after completing several other courses with one or many instructors. My reasoning behind this, Matt actually covered quite simply and elegantly during Day One. You develop a rut (myself included), or beaten path if you will, on how things are done and how you do them. Repetitive motions like reloading a certain way, holding a pistol a certain way, or even shooting a certain amount of rounds for a drill; you are developing a routine that stays with you from one course to the next.

This is not a bad thing. You reload faster, you shoot more accurately faster and you feel you are becoming a general badass. You gain immeasurable confidence in the actions and you enjoy doing them because you are good at them. Trying new things, even a modified or different way of doing the same things you have always done makes you take a step backwards and you may begin to doubt your awesomeness. As Matt stated during the training, Dopamine is a hell of a drug and humans enjoy doing what they are good at. No one wants to suck. When you are struggling with something, you will naturally want to stop and replace it with something you are good at doing simply because it is more enjoyable than something that is different or hard. Touching a hot stove is not enjoyable, but you still learned and got pretty good at not getting burned through life. All being said, it is interesting to see how it all comes together since CFS courses do not come with any prerequisites and accept all levels of shooters.

All preconceived notions of how a class is supposed to be run or taught needs to be removed before taking a CFS course. There is a method to the madness which becomes clear at every step as long as you can get out of your own way. There really is no “Secret Sauce” or wizardry. There may be a Mr. Miyagi moment or two and the “why” will always be explained. Matt prides himself on giving the “why” and will not broad stroke or blowoff any student’s question. Or as he puts it, Matt will never give you a “just another tool in your toolbox” response to a question. He doesn’t even (visibly) wear a pistol on the range, and rarely will he even demonstrate a drill. Fact of the matter is he didn’t have to as he clearly and concisely conveyed all actions to be taken without needing to demonstrate. The only reason he did on a couple (with someone else’s pistol) was to head off any safety concerns before the questions even arose.

Safety is another “concept” all together. Let me say, at no point during this training did I ever feel I was in danger or risk of gaining an extra hole or two. I did however, during Matt’s descriptions get the impression I should be. As I said, you need an open mind. Some of the drill descriptions immediately make you concerned for your safety based on other courses taken and preconceived notions of what is supposed to happen in a class. When when you actually walk through them verbally and sometimes without drawing or firing… all concerns are immediately squashed. The course of fire and more importantly the actual shooting that takes place is never at any given time un-safe or out of line. There may be a drill or two that makes you question it’s actual value, but never will Matt ignore that question and will provide you an answer or justification of a drill to help understand “the why.”

This is a fairly long winded review or after action report of the CFS course and I truly hope parts are not taken out of context. There was so much of this course that really made me wrap my head around some new concepts and re-align certain beliefs in methods of self defense. I don’t think I have talked at length with anyone about any course for more than 20-30 minutes TOPS. But Monkey and myself found ourselves discussing the principles, theories, drills and mindsets of this course for hours on end. It was almost like everything we had been taught over the years was just… parochial. Now that is not to fault all the trainers and courses prior, to this one. I learn so much more at every course evolution I have taken. CFS is taught from outside the standard regimes and SOP’s and it truly becomes apparent when you take the military derived instruction and throw it out the window. It changes your perspective from how proficient you are with the hardware, to how proficient are you are utilizing it in a real world scenario. There is emotion, analysis and real-time decision making that has to happen if you need to use your weapon in self defense and Matt Devito makes it very clear on how to try and prepare for it.

Overall, I encourage you to take a Modern Defensive Handgun or CFS course if given the opportunity. Go in with an open mind and try, honestly and truly try everything the instructor is offering. A training “rut” isn’t a bad thing, but there is no harm in making the rut, your knowledge base and your preparedness a bit larger or wider. I shot that course as fast and hard as I could have and followed instruction to the best of my ability. Believe it or not, it did not erase all the training I had before. It merely turned the volume up in some areas and toned it down in others. It helped me feel more proficient when walking around town with my family and not just on a range in front of the cameras.