I didn’t want to go into the maze. The last time I’d entered Patriot Protection’s simulated house a simulated homeowner shot me with simulated ammunition that really, really hurt. By that point, I knew the training ground’s layout well enough. I also knew the chances of adding to my collection of painful welts and bloody dings during the room clearance drill was extremely high. The pretend bad guy was an experienced role player, skilled marksman and high-level tactician. He knew what I was likely to do better than I did. Even in the dark. Especially in the dark. Yes, there is that . . .
A middle-of-the-night home invasion is the average gun owner’s nightmare scenario. It shouldn’t be.
A “bump in the night” home invasion is a highly predictable and thus manageable scenario. Your ability to ID suspicious sounds in your sleep, your alarm system and/or the family pet gives you time to prepare your pre-prepared defense. You know where to stand, hide, retreat or attack. You know the location of everyone on the friends and family plan. Your cell phone is at hand. Your weapon is at hand. What could possibly go wrong?
Everything. Other than that, not much.
You know what I mean. Shit happens, but if it’s going to happen, it’s best if it happens in familiar territory. Besides, a BITN scenario doesn’t require much in the way of a plan or tactical skills. Gather friendlies whilst holding a handgun, assume a defensive position with a suitable weapon (a 12-gauge ought to do it), call 9-1-1 and wait for the cavalry. The bad guys take what they want and leave, the Boys in Blue arrive or you do something to the perps that requires a morning-after call to SERVPRO.
Alternatively, be vewy vewy quiet. We’re hunting wabbits! Grab your gun, go into your house, clear it room by room, find the bad guy(s), engage them and terminate them with extreme prejudice. Then call SERVPRO. Wait. What? Are you kidding?
Cops clear rooms in teams for a reason: it’s extremely dangerous. There are lots of ways bad guys can ambush the good guys – no matter how much training your local PD bring to the ballistic ballgame. Room/house clearing at night is ten times worse. For cops. For homeowners I’m going with 100. Despite the home field advantage, I reckon a single homeowner with a gun needs to be a brass balls operator operating operationally to git ‘er done in the dark.
Where’s MY flash-bang?
When I put my strategic analysis to Patriot Tactical trainer Robbie Allmon, a man whose diminutive stature belies unfathomable lethality, he was sympathetic. To a point. “If someone’s entering my house, I don’t know what they want to do to me or my family. I’m going to go out and get them as quickly as I can.” Only I don’t think he said “get.” So, speed, surprise and violence of action eh? “What if the cops don’t arrive?” he added. “How long are you going to wait?”
Bottom line: I wasn’t getting out of the nighttime room clearing exercise. This despite the fact that I was tired (not the day’s first adrenalin dump), hungry (don’t these operators ever eat?) and the light was bad (my house isn’t an over-sized dark room). So I entered the maze in my protective gear, a Man-Marker modified GLOCK 19 and enough trepidation to fuel an entire season of Under the Dome. I lay down on the bed and waited for the lights to go out. So to speak.
The “advanced” room clearing technique Allmon taught us worked well enough. I used my flashlight as a kind of strobe, shining it from floor to ceiling in short bursts. Taking snapshots. Moving in the dark. I pied hallways and rooms like a pro. I strobed into rooms with just my hand. Then stuck my head in, flashed the light and moved my noggin out faster than you can say easy head shot. I found the bad guy.
I’m not exactly sure what happened next, exactly. He fired at me – and missed. I fired at him numerous times, hit him in the leg (I later learned) and . . . let’s take time out for a quick revision on strategy. Specifically, mindset.
You know how you sit in classroom before training exercises and listen to the same old self-defense spiel with half-an-ear? Situational awareness, have a plan, get off the X, fight-or-flight response, tunnel vision, yada yada yada. Somewhere in the middle of Rob’s PowerPoint prez he introduced a bit about the difference between survival mindset and combat mindset. When it’s game on, you can’t be thinking survival. You have to be thinking win. Winning means acting, not reacting.
So there I was, outside the door of a room with the bad guy in it, trying to kill me (simulationally speaking). I had the bad guy cornered, maybe wounded, but definitely not dead. I was behind cover. And . . . that’s it. I’d stopped fighting. Rob called the drill. Too soon. Because I wasn’t doing anything. The situation wasn’t resolved. I was in reactive mode. Or, if you prefer, I’d chickened-out. (Hey, the truth hurts.)
Rob showed me what I should have done. Blinded the bastard with my 500 lumens light, run into the room and shot him multiple times. Huh. I’ve recommended that armed self-defenders run-up to the bad guy and shoot him. The thought hadn’t even occurred to me. And I know why. Fighting in the dark is scary shit. Gaining confidence in low-light shooting requires practice, of which I’d done none. Equally, I wasn’t sufficiently motivated.
If the bad guy had been a real bad guy, if my daughter had been in the house, I feel sure I would have entered that room, prepared to do or die. Or do and die. Again, I don’t think it’s a good idea to put oneself in that position, at all, ever. And I know there’s a difference between feeling sure of a course of action and actually executing it. Force-on-force training does nothing if not highlight that discrepancy. And how.
But point taken: if you find yourself in a gunfight – any kind of gunfight – you gotta put your game face on and be pro-active rather than reactive. Rob calls it “getting inside the bad guy’s OODA loop.” In other words, go for the kill. Which isn’t easy at the best of times: in broad daylight with plenty of advance warning. At night, in the dark, you have to reach down inside yourself and find courage you didn’t know you had, to confront that unseen, unseeable fear that lives inside all of us. As always, good luck with that.