Monday, January 26, 2015

My Thoughts on Combative Firearms Training:
Decades in the making!
Dave Spaulding

Once again another “tac-tard” has spouted off on the internet, talking about something they know nothing about but feel the need to be heard anyway. Ron White is correct…”you can’t fix stupid!” In this case I was able to track down who this person is (yes, they hid behind a pseudonym) and they have NO practical/tactical background at all. No law enforcement, military not even time working private security…nothing that would put them in harm’s way. He is a professional student that feels his tuition money gives him the right to bark about things he knows nothing about on a personal level. It turns out he is an office worker who faces nothing more dangerous than a paper cut. Thus, I feel the need to rant one again…

I attended the State of Ohio Firearms Instructor certification course at the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy in 1983. At the time it was a two week course, one week for revolver, the second pump action shotgun. I returned in later years for a one week certification for semi-automatic pistol, a week for sub-machine gun and finally a week for assault (I prefer battle) rifle. There was also an additional week for instructional skills, but since I had a Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary Education I was allowed to take a pass on this course. I have attended most of the big name shooting schools and many of the traveling instructors, learning from each and every one. I have done all I can to sharpen my craft and since my initial certification, I have trained literally tens of thousands of students in basic academy firearms, in-service use of force and now multi-levels of skills based on what I call “the combative application of the pistol.” I have decided not to teach carbine courses as I never used the AR-15 while on the job. When I was assigned to SWAT our perimeter weapon was the Steyr AUG-P and the entry weapon the Heckler & Koch MP-5. It just seems a bit disingenuous to train students with a gun I never used.

Over the last three decades plus, I have been contacted by many students (over 100) who have prevailed in armed conflict, sharing their stories of what occurred and how their training made the difference. Ten of these incidents were caught on cruiser videos and I have been permitted to view them. Along the way, I have interviewed hundreds of people who have been in armed conflict including veterans of WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, The GWOT, cops, citizens and yes…felons! I have combined my interviews with my training and my personal experiences (SWAT, patrol, surveillance unit, narcotics, undercover operations, homicide investigations, etc.) to create a doctrine of combative pistolcraft and I believe deep in my heart I have it right! It is more than a money making endeavor for me…it is a calling!

I could write volumes on my thoughts and feelings about shooting and combative skills training, but I have space limitations here and I don’t want to bore you. No matter who you talk to, when it comes to shooting or tactical skills, you will get a mixed bag of opinions, depending on who you speak with and as we know, opinions are like a rectum...everybody has one and most stink! My opinions and beliefs are based on what I have stated above, thus I believe they are valuable in that they were many years coming, not just based on reading a few articles, watching a video or two or becoming the fanboy of some famous instructor.  Years of training and some real world practical application have gone in to what I am about to say. Some will agree, some not and truthfully…I DON’T CARE! Many people offering opinions, especially those hiding behind a pseudonym, are just haters looking for a way to raise their profile. At least my opinions have substance. How about this idea…instead of being an internet sniper or troll, spend YEARS developing knowledge and skill on the range leaving the keyboard behind? Nah…that would take too much effort…

My thoughts based on DECADES of personal experience, training and research…

- Understand your true ability, capabilities and your limitations as it applies to your combative skill(s). Have you ever heard of the Dunning-Kruger effect? It is a cognitive bias wherein unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than is real. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their ineptitude…what I prefer to call “stupidity”. Conversely, highly skilled individuals tend to underestimate their relative competence, mistakenly assuming tasks which are easy for them are also easy for others. I see this effect in every class I teach…many of whom are the keyboard commandos I referenced earlier.  The person who over estimates their ability is far greater danger than the person who under estimates their ability and I want to be nowhere near that person when bullets start to fly as they might get me killed along with them! Oh yeah, talking with a particular tactical/military lingo does not make you knowledgeable either…

-  Your ability to run your gun must be automatic, something that occurs on “auto pilot”.  When a bad guy decides to rob you or invade your house it is unlikely you just finished a practice session. Just because you remember being trained in a technique does not mean you can perform it! I used to run into this all the time when teaching law enforcement in-service. Cops would whine “we did this in the last session” and I would have to respond “that it true but you still suck at it!” Repetition and consistency of action/motion are key here. This means practice, practice, and more practice. How often do you practice? Six times a year? Great! Would you bet five bucks on an NFL Quarterback that practiced with the ball six times a year? Keep in mind you will have to run the gun wet, cold, hot and on demand.

- Be alert and aware! Nazi Ace Erik Hartman once said “the person who is surprised is half beaten!” I think it may be more than half.  If you are familiar with Jeff Cooper’s Color Code of Awareness take stock in them and know how they work. Just because you can shoot slow bulls-eyes out to 25 yards does not mean you will catch up if caught off guard. Marksmanship and fighting is NOT the same thing, though many believe they are. Why? They have no personal frame of reference for what conflict really is, so they equate it to what they do know. THIS IS NOT ENOUGH! Marksmanship is a component of combat, not the whole answer. Do you have a sub 1 second draw from the holster? Great! Outstanding bragging rights…but if you don’t see the threat coming it does not matter as you won’t have a chance to go for your gun!

-  Have you heard of the OODA Loop? Do you really understand what it is? The OODA Loop reaction/response cycle has been studied for years and most grasp it is a physiological reality that cannot be changed. The faster you can cycle through it the better you will perform. That said, if you have to truly “orient” to what is going on before you respond you will likely fall short. Orientation is a process that sorts through incoming data and already anchored bias you have within. Col. Boyd understood through “Implicit Guidance and Control” (proper training, preparation and experience) a combatant can go from observation to action more quickly. Do not think the OODA cycle is as smooth as water from a pitcher. Preparation is not paranoia…

-  Never give up accuracy for speed. As Bill Jordan said, “There is no second place winner”. I also like my friend Dennis Tueller’s (yes, The Tueller Drill) statement “If you don’t think you have enough time to aim you certainly do not have enough time to miss!”

-  If you carry a weapon (gun, knife, stick, cane, etc.) for personal security, train realistically and at distances that are real world. Use realistic targets if at all possible. I shoot bulls-eye targets in some of my drills, but I like to use humanoid shaped targets most of the time. 3D targets covered with shirts are even better.  In a gunfight, you will not have a target to shoot at but an outline of a human silhouette, possibly in the dark. Both SLA Marshal and Col. Dave Grossman have established if you want to shoot a human you must train on human-like targets. History has shown the majority of gunfights happen at very close quarters, 7 yards and under so I would keep that in mind when training. There is a trend to practice at 25 yards these days with the admonition “Mistakes are amplified at longer distances” and this is true. That said is it a training scar to spend too much time at distance, something I am now seeing regularly? Are you practicing your shooting or your fighting?  Only you can decide what your “real world of work and play” really is…

- If you are using competition-style shooting to practice for the “street” you might want to consider this: any “miss” is the end of your fight! Why? Because you probably the proud owner of a gunshot wound and not a point penalty. Forget winning the match or getting a trophy…if you miss your first shot you are giving your opponent the first shot. Do you want to be first or second place in your gunfight?

- Keep it real. If you carry a pistol for self-defense train with the gear and firearm you actually carry. There is no such thing as a carry holster and a range holster. Practice from the clothing you normally wear while you are carrying.

- Bruce Lee once said “Advanced skills are the basics mastered”. Be less concerned with taking it “to the next level” (I might smack the next student who says that!) and mastering the skills you need to prevail! While they are normally called the “fundamentals of shooting” I prefer to call them ESSENTIALS as you must have these to shoot and fight well! Regardless of what some tells you THERE IS NO WAY TO SHORTCUT THE PROCESS! The trick is being able to perform all of the essential skills while under the stress and duress of someone trying to take your life! It may sound easy, but I can tell you that it is what separates the combat shooter from the tactical twit. Former Delta Operator Kyle Lamb said it best, “The difference between the competition shooter and the combat shooter is the combat shooter is shooting back when bullets are in bound.” If you have never had someone try to take your life and take action to thwart it, then you have no business telling people how to go about it because you don’t know…


Rant over…boy, do I feel better! Thanks for checking in! 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the reminders. So easy to take my eye off the ball.

    ReplyDelete