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Fortress Defense Defensive Pistol I AAR

We recently hosted Fortress Defense Consultants for Defensive Pistol I, a two day, 20 hour course at The Impact Zone Range in Hempstead, TX. The course happened to be the weekend that followed SHOT Show 2013, which proved to not be one of my brighter decisions. More on that later in this long overdue AAR of Defensive Pistol I by Fortress Defense.


Fortress Defense brought three instructors for the course.

Frank Sharpe

Frank Sharpe is the President of Fortress Defense Consultants, and has been a firearms instructor for over 10 years. As a senior staff instructor for Defense Training International (DTI), he has trained thousands of citizens, police, and military in the art of defensive firearms, and is the author of the DTI Instructors’ Standards Manual. Frank specializes in the effective instruction of female students and regularly speaks on defensive issues for women’s groups and community watch organizations.

For those of you who read Monderno regularly, you probably also recognize that Frank is a contributor here on the blog. Don’t think I’m gonna let him off easy though!

Tommy Teach

Tommy Teach is a Navy Combat Veteran who served overseas in the 90’s. He is an Affiliate Instructor with DTI (John & Vicki Farnam), as well as Fortress Defense, and is CEO of Bruzer Less Lethal.

Fred Punke

Fred Punke is permanent Fortress Staff Instructor, and has been a martial arts practitioner for decades.

Course Overview

The course was divided into two days, with Day 1 being about 12 hours and Day 2 about 8 hours. The purpose of the course is to “take the student from novice to competent gunman, capable of drawing a concealed pistol and consistently hitting moving targets in a defensive situation.”

The course started off as you would expect from a level 1 handgun course – a bit slow. This is by design, as some students may or may not have had a lot of prior experience with handguns. As it happened, this was the case with a couple students in our course.

The course starting slow was just fine with me…well mostly. You see, I had the flu (the real  flu, Influenza) and just didn’t know it yet, so not having to do much was a good thing. I say mostly though because I was freezing, even though it was probably 50 or so degrees when we started that day.

Once we had made our way through gun safety, range rules and the basics, we started shooting. Unlike other courses I’ve attended, after only a few basic marksmanship drills, movement was added to the drills. This was refreshing, because in a gunfight, standing still is not a good thing. You’ll often hear it said that you need to “get off the X” – in this course we did just that. Once we started moving, we shot almost exclusively on 8″ steel rotating plates made by the Ravelin Group. Shooting steel is always a good time.

Night Shoot

Brandon and Fred

Fortress instructor Fred Punke risks getting the plague showing me ninja moves during the night shoot part of day 1.

A first for me was the night shoot part of the course. I’ve shot at night before, but not during training, and had I not been sick, this would have been a lot of fun. At this point in the day though, I was running on fumes and sitting down on the bench when it wasn’t my turn to run the drill.

We shot with a mixture of road flares, stationary lights and strobe lights. The strobe was provided by Frank walking behind us moving down the line using the strobe feature on his SureFire to provide a more dynamic lighting scenario.

Fortress Defense Methodology

Going into any course, my mindset is to do things the way the instructor teaches, even if it’s different from prior training. That is, obviously, why I’m there in the first place: to learn and to get better. At the end of the course, I take what fits for me and leave the rest.

Fortress Defense, like most training schools, has a specific way that they want their students to do things, which required some adjustment for me in the stance and grip departments. They teach a Weaver (or modified Weaver) stance and a thumbs up grip, both of which took some concentration to adjust to.


Fortress Defense also spent time throughout the course talking about mindset and victim avoidance, that is, how to not become a victim. I thought they did an excellent job with this, as well as preaching the mantras “don’t go to stupid places with stupid people and do stupid things”, and my personal favorite, “play stupid games, win stupid prizes”. Knowing how to avoid a fight is just as important as knowing how to win one.

Lessons Learned

Besides the obvious continued skill set development, the biggest thing I learned during the course was that even when I’m sick, I can still move, clear malfunctions, and effectively put rounds on target if I have to. Was it my best weekend of training, or my best display of marksmanship? No. Was it effective though? Absolutely.

Also new to me was the flashlight technique training during the night shoot. Bad things happen in low light situations too, so these techniques are important skills to have, and I’m glad this was part of the course.

Wrapping Up

Despite being sick, I am happy with the training I received from Fortress Defense, and I definitely recommend them if you’re looking for training. Fortress Defense also does quite a bit of traveling, so if you don’t live near them, that’s ok. They can put together a course that will fit your needs, and travel to where you are.

If you’ve never taken a fighting pistol course before, I would like encourage you to do so as soon as possible, especially if all you’ve ever done is poke holes in paper at the range. Is it expensive to get training? For most of us, yes it is. But the skills you acquire more than make up for the cost of the course and the ammunition.

5 Responses to Fortress Defense Defensive Pistol I AAR

  1. Eric Lopez February 18, 2013 at 2:01 pm #

    This makes me want to take a like course I guess I know what to start researching.

  2. Frank Sharpe February 18, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

    If anyone is interested, photos from the class are here:

  3. Jake February 18, 2013 at 7:46 pm #

    Sounds like a good class bro. Movement and night shoot on day 1?!? I like!

  4. Tim S February 18, 2013 at 8:03 pm #

    I’m glad you were able to take this course and put up the review. I’ve heard of Fortress via Spirico’s TSP and they are fairly close to me near the NW burbs of Chicago. They have this same class west of here in Waterman,IL in March. Planning on signing up soon. Excited to meet Frank and everyone else.

  5. Frank Sharpe February 20, 2013 at 12:41 pm #

    Tim, we’d love to have you join us in Waterman! Let’s get you signed up!