No, seriously…DO NOT try this at home.

Spetznaz. What images come to your mind when I say that word? If you’ve been on the internet for a while, probably something like this: 

Go-go backflip hatchet attack!!
Go-go backflip hatchet attack!!


Here in the States we don’t know much about how the Spetsnaz does things, which isn’t surprising given that they are the most elite military force of a foreign nation we’ve had something of a rocky relationship with over the last century or so. In the United States we have a few elite counterterrorism units of our own and generally we don’t know much about them either, except what we see in movies. Or maybe inappropriate details leaked by some executive branch dweeb trying to impress people at parties.

In the gun world, we occasionally get bits and pieces of information about how certain elite units train for the many dangerous missions that they undertake. Certain drills or practices may show up in a book or in a movie or in a press report and people start thinking “Do they really do that?” It’s complicated because sometimes, yes…they really do that. Whether or not “that” is actually a good idea is a different question altogether. On Pistol-Forum someone posted this gem from a TV show that shows some apparently legit Spetznaz guys demonstrating some drills they use in training:

The statistically minded among you can try to count how many times the four major rules of firearms safety are broken in that clip…but it’s a lot.

I know, I know. “They’re Spetznaz! They’re highly trained and have killed more people than you!” That’s all certainly true, but someone can be well trained, extremely tough, and can still do things that are dumber than a bag of hammers. Actually shooting your teammates with live ammunition isn’t really a good idea, full stop. I don’t care who you are, putting bullets into your buddies is a bad thing. Now I can’t say for sure if the drills seen in that video are actually used by Spetznaz or not, and I doubt many people have the bonafides to do so. On the one hand, they’re Russians and the Russians are nuts like that. On the other, they’re Russians, and it’s not unprecedented for the Russians to put on a show solely for the purpose of making others say “The Russians are nuts like that.”

If you poke around out there in internetland you see lots of speculation about this sort of thing and, worse, you sometimes see imitation of it. The theory goes like this: Instructor Whoever finds out at some point that Elite Group A has people next to targets with live fire going on in some circumstances, and then Instructor Whoever decides to incorporate that into his basic handgun classes. If the guys who use that practice are hardcore warriors, and we all want to be hardcore warriors, then we should do it too! Right?

Erm…no. It may be 100% true that a particular elite military or law enforcement unit does, in fact, have members of their team or other living, breathing no-shoots right next to a target that someone is engaging with live fire. That, however, is only part of the picture. Typically the person who is in the position to pull that trigger with the VIP or teammate next to the target is in that position after having undergone a rigorous selection process designed to bring in candidates that show an extraordinary ability to perform under extreme levels of stress, and has undergone extensive training and preparation prior to that moment. Generally that moment is being supervised by experienced professionals and some of the best trauma response available anywhere is on standby just in case something horrible happens. Years of preparation typically precede that moment, and the structure of what happens is dictated by decades of experience.

If you divorce the drill itself from all the important context that exists in Unit A’s training, the risky thing they do to prepare for a specific mission becomes the damnably stupid thing that a typical student in a handgun or carbine course has absolutely no business trying to imitate.

It doesn’t really matter if we’re talking about a video showing drills supposedly used by Spetznaz or rumors of how a group like DEVGRU or FBI’s HRT supposedly trains: If you divorce the drill from the context they came from then the benefit from the drill evaporates and the risk goes through the roof. The risk/reward calculation goes haywire, with all reward leaving the room and the risk growing to enormous proportions. Incompetent imitation of advanced training techniques does not produce warriors, it produces casualties.

It’s all fun and games until someone’s on the deck bleeding out from a totally preventable gunshot wound. Trust me: You don’t want to be the one on the ground OR the one responsible for putting someone in that position. Don’t try this stuff at home.


  1. The way he looks both ways and the way he pulls the pistol to his chest are American fads. This does not make me overcome the presumption that no spetznaz would ever be on an American video. This is probably fake

  2. So, the two shots into the ground in front of him during all this are indications of skill and preparation, not negligent discharges?

    1. I’m not sure what you mean. The message I was shooting for is to get people to use their thinking cap and not get lured into doing silly and dangerous things just because somebody says that special unit X does it in training. Odds are that special unit X doesn’t actually do it, or at least not the way it’s being presented by someone who was never a member of special unit X, and special unit X most certainly runs whatever drill they’re purported to use much differently than some dude who decides he’s going to teach super awesome “tactical” stuff to people in a beginner’s level handgun course.

  3. As for the trigger pulls, as far as I can see from the video they appear to be deliberate. In the United States we don’t do warning shots, but in other parts of the world they have different standards on the use of lethal force than we do here in the States. I suppose with proper body mechanics it’s possible to avoid putting a round into your own anatomy using their technique, but I wouldn’t advise that anyone try it.

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