Last week SIG SAUER gave both Tyler and myself a crash course in using firearms in CQB situations. Using some UTM training rounds and some of SIG’s firearms, we spend a good part of the day endlessly clearing rooms under the direction of the SIG SAUER Academy’s instructors — the same guys that teach this stuff to SWAT teams and military units on a regular basis. We weren’t anything even resembling what you would call good at it, but we got the basics and I figured some of you armchair operators might be interested in what we learned . . .
Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance
As I quickly realized, the most important step was actually taking a moment to think before opening the door. The position and type of door dictates how the maneuver is performed, and when we did it wrong the negative results were glaringly obvious.
A room where the doorway opens inwards was the easiest to work with. One shooter positions (or “stacks”) on either side of the doorway, and the operation begins when the shooter nearest the doorknob opens the door. The idea is to allow your teammate on the other side to to through the door first since it will take a moment to get your hand back on your gun after opening the door and your buddy will be good to go.
An outward-opening doorway is slightly more difficult. Instead of being able to stack on either side of the doorway, there’s only one side where immediate access into the room is provided. The idea is to have both shooters stack on the side of the door with the doorknob, which allows both of them to enter at almost the same time. The trick here is that the shooter closest to the door DOES NOT open the door — the guy behind him in line reaches around and does that instead.
The basic principle that the instructors were trying to convey was that getting rounds on target as fast as possible was the name of the game. You want to set yourself up so that your team can see and engage threats faster than those targets can respond, and a big part of that is configuring yourselves so that someone with a gun gets in the door the second it cracks open.
Economy of Motion
Once the door is open, the name of the game is to get as many shooters on-line in as short of a time frame as possible. More shooters means more protection for the rest of the crew and allows the team to take down more targets more quickly. The way this is accomplished is by having shooters take the path of least resistance when entering a room.
Let’s start with that inward-opening door. Shooters are positioned on either side of the door, and when it opens they simply proceed straight ahead. The shooter on the right side of the door takes the left side of the room, and vice versa. What makes this setup convenient is that the time it takes for the doorknob-side shooter to open the door and get back on their gun is just enough time for the opposite side shooter to slip into the room, clearing the way for guy #2 to slide in behind.
With an outward opening door things are similar, but not identical. The first shooter still goes straight ahead, but for shooter #2 in the stack that direction is now blocked. Instead, they need to “button hook” (turn after entering the door) to cover the other side of the room. It makes sense — the first shooter is blocking the straight ahead direction, so the “path of least resistance” is to turn and service the opposite side of the room.
Once inside, the plan is to sweep from the outside in. Starting with the outer wall (the one the shooters just stacked on the opposite side of) they should scan until the two shooter’s fields of fire meet in the middle of the room. The guidance that our instructors gave us was that our area of responsibility ends about 2 feet in front of the extreme position of the other guy’s muzzle, which allows for some overlapping of the responsibility in the middle of the room.
Speed, Surprise, and Violence of Action
Above all, the most important thing that we failed to do was move with a sense of urgency. Speed, surprise, and violence of action — these are the principles that make CQB tactics like these work. If you can act successfully before your opponent has time to even realize what is going on, you win. But for us, our constant problem was that we weren’t smooth and quick enough to do it in a time that would work.
That’s just for one door at a time — expand that sequence to a full-on scenario and personally my fat ass can’t keep up.
At the end of the day, the instructors set up an extended scenario where we would use everything we learned that day and stretch our abilities. I made it through the little village just fine, but as soon as we started jogging down the road to the next shoot house I could no longer keep up. I’m dangerous over short distances, but anything over a couple hundred yards and I’m huffing and puffing like a lifelong smoker during a marathon.
Moral of the story: I need to lose weight. In a game where speed is the key to survival, my power-to-weight ratio is way off kilter.
While our half day in the modified shipping containers didn’t make us into lean mean room-clearing machines, it definitely gave us a better appreciation for the skills and expertise that SIG SAUER’s training academy has to offer.