Back in July, I reviewed a two day class that I had attended at the SIG Sauer Academy, “Civilian Response to Terrorist Threats.” The class was designed and is taught by Todd Rassa of Tactical Defense Readiness Concepts. The curriculum focuses on the methods and motivations of Islamic Fundamentalists in the hopes of preparing the students to survive an encounter, should one happen here in the United States. The class I attended this past week is intended to put the lessons taught during that two day class into practice with nearly all the time spent in force-on-force scenario training . . .
Regular readers of this blog know that RF is a big fan of force-on-force training and having now taken one such class, I’m on board, too. Proper force-on-force training scenarios aren’t like anything you’ve likely experienced before. Even if you’ve dodged paintballs, you are likely ill prepared for what force-on-force delivers…and consequently ill prepared for a real life gun battle.
The main reason: force-on-force uses guns that are frighteningly realistic. They look and feel like the real thing, which isn’t too surprising in that they essentially are the real thing with some slight modifications.
Don’t let the color of the gun fool you. Sure, this particular one is blue indicating that it’s a training piece, but depending on the kind of gun you have, switching your gun from firing lethal to training ammo can be as simple as swapping out your barrel. The Simunitions guns look, feel, and fire like the real thing right down to using your duty mags to hold the special Simunitions rounds, which come in different colors and calibers to fit many mainline weapons.
The second big difference between proper force-on-force training and something like paintball is that if properly designed and executed, when you are in a force-on-force exercise, you feel like it’s the real thing. You are hyper-sensitive to all sorts of stimuli, things like tunnel vision and auditory exclusion kick in and a lot of your careful training goes right out the window.
Each of the scenarios that we ran through was videotaped and reviewed with the class after the fact. It can be downright embarrassing to see all kinds of mistakes being made during the encounter ranging from massively jerking the trigger to accidentally killing an innocent bystander.
The day began with a review of the 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai, India. In that situation, there were only 10 combatants, but they had been well trained, had excellent intel and were guided during the mission by agents of Pakistani Intelligence. They were able to kill a good many people and do a fair amount of damage as the authorities were ill prepared to deal with such a fast moving, well trained and heavily armed threat. Intel gathered in the aftermath of the raid suggests that cities in both Europe and the U.S. are likely to be targeted with similar style attacks in the coming years. With that heartwarming possibility as our backdrop, we proceeded into the scenarios.
Force-on-force training can be tailored to specific subjects and tactics. Todd, for example, also teaches an Extreme Close Quarters Battle course in which hand-to-hand, knife, and point blank weapon usage is part of the training. As this course was focused on terrorism, the scenarios were designed around situations in which we could find ourselves facing armed jihadis. No taking down muggers or midnight home defense. Instead, all of the various exercises happened in public places with loads of innocent bystanders.
Todd asked that we not discuss the details of the scenarios we experienced. This is for a couple of reasons. First, we wouldn’t want a potential bad guy to know what tactics we have learned to counter standard jihadist attacks. Second, Todd and his partners spend a lot of time developing and testing these scenarios and they remain his intellectual property.
If you want to find out for yourself exactly what the experience feels like, you’ll have to sign up for a class. Todd teaches the course in a number of different locations, the SIG Academy is only one of them. What I will say is that the day consisted of five different scenarios and included some light vehicle work as well as at least one no-shoot situation where the correct approach is to de-escalate and not draw your gun (although one of my classmates ended up ventilating the unarmed antagonist and an innocent).
If you want to get a taste of things, the video below is a trailer for a film that looks at some of Todd’s training. Some of these scenarios are very close to what we experienced.
The movie isn’t yet out – its currently being shopped around at the festivals looking for a distributor. Hopefully they’ll find one and we can see the whole thing.
What you take away from this type of training is truly something extraordinary. You get a glimpse of how well you might very perform in a life or death situation. Do you trust yourself to carry a gun and, more importantly, draw it? If you do, will you react in time?
I didn’t start off too well. I took a round in the forehead during the first scenario (got the first terrorist, but the second one tagged me), I got blown up in the next scenario (I ddn’t kill the terrorist before he detonated his explosive vest) and I learned to be a lot more careful about the use of selected profanity because there are always witnesses and you want them to have a favorable memory of you (screaming “get out of the bus or I’ll blow your f-ing head off is not recommended).
Fortunately, as the day went on, I got better and managed to avoid getting shot again, but questions still remained in my mind. Could I have moved faster? Could I have saved more people (besides myself) if my gun came out and was on target sooner? Did I kill the terrorists who were threatening my family in in time?
One of the most interesting outcomes was that while many of us train to deal with the lone robber, maybe a carjacker, possibly even a couple of seriously deranged kids who try to kill their classmates or a movie theater full of people, in most cases our preparation doesn’t factor in the possibility of facing people who have received military level training and who are so fanatical that they can’t be reasoned or bargained with. To stop them, you have to kill them.
When you find yourself in one of those scenarios with an unknown number of attackers that are better armed than you are, the decisions you make and how quickly you make them and take action can be the difference between life and death for yourself or those you care about.
It also causes you to rethink everything. Do you carry enough ammo on you? Maybe think again. In the final scenario, we had five bad guys that needed to be taken out and we only had two magazines of 10 rounds each. Twenty rounds goes pretty fast when you’re making sure that the guy with the suicide vest you just put down stays down.
I made a stupid error early on. I expended about half a mag nailing a head shot on a moving target, then swapped out for a fresh mag leaving a half full one behind. That left me with 10 bullets for four bad guys. I was damn lucky that the slide lock back happened after two center mass hits on the last bad guy, but what if he’d been wearing a vest or had a buddy? I would have been dead.
One other thing that was funny was how few people actually picked up a dead terrorist’s weapon to increase their firepower. We all watch movies where the good guy shoots a bad guy and we are screaming at the protagonist to get the gun…which of course he ignores. Guess what — when the action is happening, most of us didn’t grab the gun either.
Is that person running towards you a foe or just an innocent caught in the crossfire? You only have a second or two to decide and the wrong decision could land your ass in jail or the morgue. When you’re focused on the room you just cleared and hear a voice behind you telling you they are police and to drop your weapon and show your hands, do you comply or do you make the mistake one guy did and turn towards the voice with your gun (he got some cop-administered chest surgery for his trouble).
The biggest takeaway is that you quickly learn how most of your square range training goes out the window. You have threats at 360 degrees that must be engaged. All those nice practice drills you did with neat head shots and tight groups open up dramatically when you’re under fire. One of the things you learn quickly when dealing with the terrorist angle is that you likely don’t have the luxury of taking too much time to assess the situation before acting. Terrorists plan to die and want to take as many people as possible with them. Every moment you hesitate means more deaths and it could be your loved ones doing the dying. On the other hand, act too hastily and you risk getting plugged yourself, killing a bystander or worse, a cop.
One of my adages has always been that if you plan to carry a firearm, you need to practice and you should get some training in the tactical use of that weapon. To that I’m now going to add that a force-on-force training class is an absolute necessity if you want to increase your certainty of how you will likely perform when the excrement hits the air moving device.