Training for the changing threat

Shelley Rae rockcastle

A couple of posts popped up on my radar today that both hit on the same subject – how we’re training and what kind of threat we’re training to fight. First up is Todd at Pistol-Training, talking about the emerging active shooter/terrorist threat:

While there are still muggers and rapists and thieves aplenty in our society, this year has seen a rise in organized, trained, well armed, and fearless teams of ne’er do wells who are all too happy to kill their victims. Murder for them is a goal, not an inconvenience.

Caleb Area 3 with Colt 1911

Next is a post from American Handgunner, where Ralph Mroz talks about how he’s changing his training focus from extreme CQB (inside 3 yards) to more short/intermediate range training; reasoning that the data from recent civilian and LE shootings shows most fights occur outside the “phonebooth” envelope.

We now have the only good data set on civilian defensive uses of guns (Tom Givens’ data published in Handgunner (Sept./Oct. 2014 edition) which indicates most civilian deadly force encounters happen at about 5 yards, at least in his data set. This means we definitely need to train at that distance — plus or minus a couple yards, so say 3 to 8 yards. Further, the astonishing success rate of Tom’s students suggests we need to pay attention to Tom’s fairly traditional training too — sighted shooting with two hands on the gun.

I have always advocated that self-defense training should be focused on making difficult shots under tight time limits, with the simple reasoning that if you’re capable of making a pair of head shots on a 3×5 card under 2 seconds from concealment at 7 yards, a wide open torso at 3-5 yards is an easy shot. Or to put it another way: “No one rises to the occasion, you default to the level of your training.”

It’s sort of like the zombie apocalypse joke: if you’re prepared to survive a plague of the undead sweeping across the land, a tornado is just an inconvenience. I’m not saying that everyone should immediately run out and take a carbine operator course, rather that people should take an honest look at the self-defense skills you have, identify weak areas, and then train to make those weaknesses go away. The mere act of carrying a gun for self-defense means that you acknowledge the possibility, however unlikely, that you may need to actually use that gun for self-defense. If you’re mentally capable of realizing that, it then follows that it’s in your best interests, and the interests of those around you, to be prepared for the most extreme situation in which you could use that gun. Because if you’re training to make 25 yard head shots on moving partials, you’re going to be able to make the easy shots.

But what does that look like? How can we go from “not ready” and find the road that leads to being ready for an unthinkable day?

  1. Evaluate your gear. Step one is simple. Look at the gear you’re carrying right now. I understand some people can’t carry in the workplace, so look at what you can carry. If you can and do carry at all times, what are you carrying? A j-frame? A Glock 19? Is your equipment, be it holster, belt, or gun itself a limiting factor in your ability to make hard shots at intermediate ranges? I would casually suggest that if you can’t make an untimed headshot on an IDPA target at 15 yards with your current gear, you might want to look into changing it up.
  2. Evaluate your skills. Can you make an untimed headshot on demand at a 15 yard target? What about hitting a 2 inch circle at 5 yards, or a 3×5 card at 7? There are a ton of drills available online that you can use to benchmark your skills, whether it’s a good old fashioned Bill Drill, the FAST test, the iHack, whatever. Find some drills, test yourself, and see where your weaknesses are. If you’re good at bill drills shoot a drill you’re not good at.
  3. TAKE A FRIGGIN CLASS. Once you’ve found out where your weaknesses lie, take a class from a reputable instructor to have professional adjustment made on those skills.
  4. Pressure test your skills and training. Once you’ve received that professional instruction, you need to pressure test what you’ve learned in the white hot fire of the furnace of the crucible of motorsport competition. Weird things happen to people’s skills when you put them in front of other people and on a timer.
  5. Practice. Once you’ve done all these things, you need to set up a repeated schedule to practice and continue to build speed and efficiency. It doesn’t do you any good to learn new stuff and pressure test if after that you just sit around for 2 months waiting for your next match. Dry fire. Even if it’s just for a little bit. Go the range and train.

The bottom line is that once you’ve accepted that the world is a dangerous enough place to warrant carrying a gun every day, the only logical extension of that thought is that the danger is significant enough that you should be training to kick its ass.

1 thought on “Training for the changing threat”

  1. Caleb – thanks for the reference. Have to say that I agree with almost everything that you said, with one exception. Competence with speed and accuracy at 7 yards doesn’t necessarily translate into an easy day at 3 yards IF YOU MAKE THE EXERCISE REALISTIC, and not just a shooting exercise. At those close distances you have to deal with an attacker who can reach you before your draw is completed, thus you have to integrate empty hands skills with drawing and shooting, which is a much harder thing to do correctly than simply drawing and shooting. I emphasize “correctly” because, as the technique (there’s really one one that works) for dealing with that situation has diffused throughout the training community over the last 10-15 years, it has gotten watered down and feeble, quite often by instructors who don’t really know that they are doing. Of course that makes it easy to teach, and too easy for the unwitting students to perform well.

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