Combat Readiness

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Members of the U.S. Army Reserve Competitive Marksmanship Program discuss their combat experiences and how competition shooting helps with military training and readiness.


SSG Bonjour

MAJ Garcia

SSG Porter

SSG Rosene

MAJ Rosnick

MAJ Sleem

SSG Fuentes

SGM Gerner

SGT Hall

SSG Hartley

Drill Sergeant Willis

CPT Freeman

SSG Kizanis

SSG Volmer


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Staged Shooting Environment

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staged-environment

Good point. Police, military, and CCW/defensive shooting instruction and qualification is a staged environment on a one-way range under no stress. And they don’t even require “shooting quickly.”

I understand this meme was intended as a poorly-concealed jab at those of us shooting matches. However, low-skilled personnel spending more time fooling themselves that cowering from competition is needed to preserve their self-appointed tactical acumen instead of just learning to shoot better actively fail to realize that every form of whatever instruction, training, practice, etc. they hold as sacrosanct suffers the same problems.

Qualifications are staged environments. Marine and Army qual courses have remained the same for decades with the courses published in official regulations. Police courses are just as bad. The minimal standards needed to graduate recruit/basic/academy training remain the same throughout an entire career.

Qualifications are intended to be passed by low-skill shooters and retries are offered for anyone failing. Where is the stress in that? And such low-level qualification remains the only time skills are measured and held accountable at all. Even if “advanced” tactical and force-on-force exercises are conducted, its value and interpretation is subjective. As long as we all agree we did a good-enough job and learned something when congratulating ourselves during the AAR, then we’re tactical.

Funny thing, competition has been proven by laboratory tests to create a large amount of stress hormones and continued competitive experience does not blunt this effect. However, any stress created in non-scored, non-competitive environments has been proven via laboratory tests to diminish notably by the second time a novice tries it and is diminished much further by the third try, even when done on the first day during attention-grabbing events like parachuting. A brand new parachutist experiences less stress hormones during their third jump on their first day than an experienced competitor with a decade of experience and hundreds of competitions under their belt. This makes that “under no stress” qualifier a real problem for tactical instruction but not for competitive environments.

The best answer is to blend all the useful characteristics from multiple sources. Recognize that many things are beneficial but nothing provides a complete solution. A person with a reasonable competitive track record that shoots well, is in good shape, has formal tactical training in non-staged environments, and experience in force-on-force exercises is the best combination.

Why Timers Are Critical

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It has become fashionable in some circles within defensive shooting and hunting communities to downplay any use of a timer or timed exercises. Yes, there are useful drills that don’t need or even benefit from use of a timer. And there are certainly a number of important things that aren’t improved by any range exercise.

Training/practice for defensive or hunting use that implements no timed drills is incomplete. All real-world shooting will almost always need to be done in an efficient manner. It will always be to your benefit to be able to perform correctly at speed. Given that real-world shooting has a stress component, performing under a ticking clock on the range is a valuable way to learn how to perform under pressure. Stupid cliches like “there aren’t any timers in a gunfight” or “deer don’t carry stopwatches” are novice excuses to avoid being held accountable for low skill levels.

Poor hit rates in law enforcement shootings are largely due to officers never being forced to shoot at speed and under a bit of stress during qualification or in-service training. Many dash cam videos of shootings show personnel forced to shoot at speed and under stress for the first time in their lives. It certainly didn’t occur during routine qualification and in-service training.

Law enforcement veteran and champion shooter Robert Vogel explains further:

Two Way Range

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There’s a big difference between the competition world and the combat-focused shooting world. Competition shooters don’t get shot at.

Cardboard/paper/steel targets don’t shoot back.

These are popular assessments given by usually low-skill people as an excuse for why they cower from competition. True, competition is done on one-way ranges. Nobody is supposed to get shot at a match. However, all forms of instruction, training, and practice exercises and drills are all also one way, no matter how military/LEO, tactical, or “high speed” it is (or you think it is.)

How many incoming live rounds did you receive during your combat-focused shooting training/class/instruction/exercise/drill? How many people were shot and hit with live ammunition on purpose? What was/is the stated acceptable casualty rate? How many people are typically shot during the conduct of it? How many times have you been purposely shot in a training environment?

If the answer is zero, you’re still on a one-way range, just like in the competition world. Combat-focused shooting that does not involve people actually trying to hit you with live ammunition is still a one-way range. And if there is no value found in a one-way range, then all forms of military, police, and tactical training are equally suspect. Done while lacking a measured result in a competitive format makes the experience less stressful than a match.

No, force-on-force is NOT a true two-way range because you know in advance a “lethal” hit won’t kill. Sim rounds, be it Simunitions, UTM, Airsoft, MILES (Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System), Paintball, Laser Tag, Nerf Blaster, squirt gun, or anything else is purposely used because it can’t cause more than minor injury with proper safety precautions. Everyone starts the exercise knowing they aren’t supposed to be hurt no matter how it goes.

Even various ridiculous “training” videos showing personnel shooting live ammunition toward other people still isn’t a two-way range.

https://www.facebook.com/armyinside/videos/1655962138041846/

Still not a two-way range


Still not a two-way range

https://www.facebook.com/KaBaEnvironment/videos/1656137297735660/

Still not a two-way range

https://www.facebook.com/InstrutorDeArmamentoETiro/videos/1217181631725946/

Still not a two-way range

Yes, that is live ammunition being used with personnel downrange. No, I don’t recommend it. Despite the theatrics, this still is not a two-way range. Neither the cadre nor trainees are trying to hit other people. Bullets are being launched in their general direction, but that also happens to pit pullers in the target butts on a KD range. Nobody is being shot on purpose.
two-way-range

Competitive stress is real, it doesn’t abate even after repeated experiences, and it has been scientifically proven to exist. By actual test, merely adding a score and spectators to ballroom dancing has been measured by laboratory results to induce as many stress hormones as a novice’s first and second parachute jump. Parachuting is measurably less stressful for the novice by the third jump, however, competition continues to produce the same stress reaction even after a decade of experience and hundreds of competitive events. Parachuting is measurably less stressful by the third jump on the first day for a newbie and the same thing happens with the “stress” of all forms of instruction and training, including force-on-force and even fake “incoming” on a pretend two-way range that still isn’t two way.

Combat is a competition and requires a winning mindset. Competing at something challenging and trying to win remains the best way to develop the skills and attitude you need. Cowering from such challenges does not.

TL;DR
Shove your tired clichés where the sun don’t shine.
https://firearmusernetwork.com/competition-shooting-vs-two-way-range/

Surprise Courses

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I think that seeing the stage kinda takes the fun out of it. Drilling for it either mentally or by doing a couple of “dry run” walks through it will kill the whole concept of being as fast as you can in the circumstances that you’re given and instead makes it into a “routine” so to speak, like being the fastest guy to do a course that’s already familiar.

This is like arguing Track and Field events aren’t challenging because it’s won by the fastest guy to do a course that’s already familiar…

Many types of real-world engagements do allow for pre-planning. In those scenarios, it would be negligent to not have a pre-arranged plan:
https://firearmusernetwork.com/have-a-plan/
https://firearmusernetwork.com/seal-team-six-training/

Outside of this, some shooting events and formal competitions do feature surprise courses. They were routinely held in practical competitive events dating back at least to the early 1960s and are held in certain venues today.

The only reason there aren’t more events featuring surprise courses of fire is logistics. Events are set up and run by volunteers that obviously also want to shoot. Keeping a field or shoothouse course secret requires a range facility that prevents peeking (intentional or by accident) and it must by run by someone (usually a non-paid volunteer) willing to not participate.

Let us know when and where you’ll host something like that for us. :-)

I’ve designed courses that feature a surprise, not-known-in-advance elements that can be fairly shot by the event director and by the people setting the course up. It can be done, and is a feature of TacticalPractical events, but such layouts are not permitted by organizations like NRA, CMP, USPSA or IDPA.

Training Scars: Brass in Pockets

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The “found brass in pockets story” is a popular old saw offered as a warning against developing bad habits or training scars. The story goes that some police officer was found dead with spent brass in his pockets. Being of the era when revolvers were common, the doomed-but-nameless officer unintentionally stuffed his brass into pockets while reloading during a protracted, long-ago fight, thus slowing him down and sealing his fate. Details are rarely offered, but the boogeyman to avoid is unintentionally developing a bad habit and to only do things exactly as told or you’ll suffer the same fate! Boo!
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What’s Wrong with Defensive Shooting Classes

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Alright, sometimes we have close calls, but this one had to have bit the bullet, literally. I can’t believe I was so close to it also. Could have been bad for a lot of people. Even though everyone is okay here. It’s just a reminder to train and be fully aware of how you operate a handgun.

We were at a dynamic drill day practicing self defense with a focus on moving with a group of shooters.


You're good, you're good... [Hey Lefty, keep slapping away on your Dynamic Critical Incident "training"]

This video nicely sums up nearly everything wrong with defensive shooting classes. A line dance of lower skilled shooters dumping a bunch of rounds semi-discriminately at large, close targets. Note they’re all circling through a batch of targets shot at by everyone. No attempt to see where (or if) they’re hitting, and with everyone shooting the same batch of targets we can’t anyway. No time or other pressure. And a dude (who probably is convinced competitive shooting causes bad habits) nearly shoots himself before slopping through the exercise.

This is poor gunhandling displayed by a novice. Blaming the holster ignores the true problem.

Line dances like this can’t get people more skilled. Despite false promises and outright lies, everyone needs to earn their chops on simple but stringent drills even if nobody seems to want to.

Simple range exercises and competitive events are disregarded as not useful or relevant. Some people, including those hosting such classes, claim they cause bad habits, training scars, and the like. Using a scored and/or timed fixed exercise is claimed as not useful, even meaningless, and to be avoided.

Nobody wants to earn their fundamental skills doing boring, static, range drills and other “circus tricks.” We want dynamic drill day practicing relevant, real-world self defense in context with a focus on moving. Just like this guy.

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