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The instant the rabbi and I walked into Xtreme Action Sports’ indoor paintball facility in Walpole Mass for our 1pm Simunitions class I knew were f’ed. Six men gathered around the staging area. I could tell at a glance they were all Army and/or LEOs, except for one, who looked every inch the silent, crazy type. Classmates? Nope. Instructors. It was just the rabbi and me. No ’bout a doubt it: I was going to get shot. Many times. How great is that?

Pretty great. I got more from King33‘s Sims class in five minutes than I grokked in the last three years at a square range. No surprise there. If you want to know what you’re going to do in a gunfight, what you should do in a gunfight, you have to have a gunfight. Ask your subconscious: if it doesn’t hurt when you get it wrong, on some level, it doesn’t count.

Make no mistake: getting shot by an FX marking round (or two or three or five) hurts. When that little plastic cap hits bare or T-shirt covered flesh at 400 feet per second and screws in a bit, there is, as the manual calls it, “a pain penalty.” But hey, the adrenalin’s flowing, the endorphins mask most of the immediate effect and it’s all in a good cause.

That said, I was kinda hoping for a Shoot/Don’t Shoot class. One of those role playing deals where you interact with a potential bad guy or bad guys and figure out if/when you should shoot them. Always doing your best NOT to shoot anyone, while making sure if you DO shoot someone you do it BEFORE they shoot you.

In this case, it was one, two, three, gunfight! I learned that, mostly, I suck in a gunfight. I get stuck behind cover. My brain moves fast enough, I communicate well in a crisis, but my feet get mired in concrete. I don’t have an IDEA (Instant Dynamic Explosive Action) in my head.

Working on it. And other stuff. But the most important lesson I learned is the quote from trainer Ray Johansen in the headline above: “you will get shot.” It’s a shorter version of the old Mark Twain aphorism: it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.

You can’t go into a gunfight (or any violent encounter) expecting it to go the way you want it to go. Nor can you expect to emerge unscathed. You may emerge victorious. You may emerge unscathed. But that’s not your main goal. Your main goal is to do whatever it takes to survive.

“You have to be prepared to take a hit and keep going,” Johansen warned me, despite the fact that I had done just that. Several times. Which is pretty much the only way you can train yourself for that particular eventuality. The FX cartridge lets you practice playing through the pain.

That said, it also comes down to mental preparation. I’ve said it before (much to the chagrin of many of TTAG’s Armed Intelligentsia): you have to be ready to fight to the death. Not how you will fight to the death. But the fact that you will.

And to do that, you have to accept the possibility that it, death, could happen. So if/when you ARE shot/stabbed/sliced/punched/kicked in the balls you don’t panic. It’s not so cavalier as being able to think to yourself “oh well that didn’t work as planned.” Or even “this isn’t going to end well.” But it’s damned close.

As always, YMMV.

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  1. I got to exchange Simunition rounds with a Sheriff’s department trainer during a recent Citizen’s Academy class. Besides the head and neck gear, they had me wear a padded vest that covered my entire torso and a long sleeve hoodie. I felt like the Michelin man.

    I was so bulked up, I accidentally dropped the pistol on my first draw – in front of the entire class…

    It was the closest I have come to a gun fight – or ever hope to, so the experience was very interesting.

  2. You’re going to fight the way you train so you should train the way you’re going to fight. The first rule I learned in knife fighting in the Marines is that you’re going to get cut and it’s safe to assume that the same holds true for a gun fight. If you plan for the worst ahead of time it will save you a precious OODA loop in the real world. Force on force training cannot be emphasized enough to prepare you for real world situations. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough of these types of training facilities. I hope that the increase in gun ownership around the country will lead to an increase in dynamic training facilities as well.

  3. Looks like fun and painful. So when you got shot in the arm did you have to switch the pistol to the other hand to simulate having your good arm put out of commission?

    • Nope. But David’s gun died during one scenario. I gave him mine. What’s that all about?

  4. In your previous post you mentioned that Simunitions can be lethal, care to explain how they could be? Getting shot in the eye?

  5. Fantastic…your best article yet. Now you see why the cops miss so much. In four actual shootings I missed two BGs and hit two BGs. It’s just not the same as standing there shooting at a static target and thinking you’re a pretty good shot. It’so0 different when the projectiles are coming your way too.

    The absolute best training for a real incident is force on force training, which I’ve also done. Unfortuately all my F on F training occurred after the actual stuff. Which, to me, made it even more interesting and instructional I think….for some reason I can’t explain.

    I’m glad you were able to attend this training, and do it every chance you get. It will make more difference than a 1000 trips to the range alone, or competition shooting. When you combine range training and force on force… you have something. It won’t guarantee your survival, but you will be in the best mind-set to have an advantage over your opponent in the real world. Of course, a bit of luck in combat, in addition to all the above, never hurts either.

    • You’re exactly right. The game changes immensely when someone is shooting back at you. Punching paper is great, I tend to think I’m pretty good at it, but it doesn’t prepare you for someone returning fire. My first simunitions training I ran my gun dry so fast I thought there was a malfunction. I got serious tunnel vision when reloading and it almost got me “killed” because I didn’t keep an eye on my target who circled the vehicle to shoot me. I got him, but I took a round in what would have been my vest, my left hand and in my leg. The whole thing was very sobering and eye opening experience.

  6. I’d love to go get this kind of training, but I don’t have the time or the money. Plus being an old fat guy with a limp, I imagine that I would collect a lot more bruises than you did. I just can’t move fast anymore, and I was never all that fast to begin with. But you also have given me a frame work of stuff to think about, such as developing the mind set that getting wounded should not stop me from my goal of winning the fight.

    • Don’t let time, money, or weight get in the way of learning a few skills that will save your life. SIMUNITION courses range from 1-8 hours In length. The cost can be kept below $120, much less than a years worth of shooting static targets at a range. As someone stated, the game changes immensely when someone is shooting back at you. You can hit all bulls-eyes on the range, but when those targets are moving and shooting back at you, everything changes. It’s worth looking into to save your life.
      Go to:
      To learn more and find a range near you.

  7. One on the six. Good training alot of things were learned and employed by these two. They picked up a lot of good skills, that we hope they will never have to deploy in a life changing incident. But by having the mind set that they will survive and go home, that means we did our jobs. Well done gents.

  8. I realize simunitions are not the same as standard paintballs, but I can’t help but think of a quote from an episode of Daria: “Hey, those paintball thingies hurt!”

  9. Good article! I’m big on force-on-force training to go along with marksmanship training. But — and this is a big but — every f-on-f scenario I’ve seen is either LEO training or a Kobayashi Maru.

  10. Awesome – to have a few of those bumps myself. I just reserved a spot in the Simumition Safety/Instructors course in July up in NJ. I am traveling all the way up there from Florida to subject myself to what you went through LOL.

  11. I would love to get some simunition training in, but I haven’t heard of anywhere in the Portland OR metro area that offers it.

    I’m going to be trying this place out called Threat Dynamics with in the next month, and I’m sure there are plenty of other places like it around the country. They offer a 360 degree video game like simulation booth with modified Glock 17’s that operate off of C02 to give realistic recoil, and some kind of laser tracking to see were your shots land. They play realistic scenarios out and you get to react to them, and if you get shot your wearing a shock belt that gives you a jolt. They also have target range training as well with the C02 guns, and is less expensive than a trip to a real gun range. RF and crew should try a place out like this, I would like to hear your guys opinions on this type of training. Here’s a link to place I’m going to:

    • Here is a SIMUNITION Certified Range Program in Portland.

      Weaponcraft LLC
      For Law Enforcement, Military and Civilians
      34 Rainmaker Drive, no. 3, Portland
      Contact: Mr. Uel Gardner
      Telephone: 207-553-2266 (voice)
      Telephone: 207-756-2007 (cell)
      Fax: 207-829-8702
      Email: [email protected]
      Zip code: 04103

      Please let me know if I can provide you with any other information.

    • When we were kids in addition to friendly mud-clod fight, friendly rock fights, water-balloon fights, etc.; we had BB-gun wars.
      We all had Daisey Cubs and wore jeans and jean jackets for protection. We tried not to shoot each other in the head. One of the guys probably still has a BB embedded under his tongue. When ambushed in a ditch from above he swung around, crouching, looking up, with his mouth open and took one right under his tongue. We weren’t about to tell our folks, so it just healed over and so far as I know is still there.
      I still carry a scar from a ‘friendly’ rock fight. I dodged when I should of ducked. I had to get stitches. Bled like a stuck hog. We told our folks I fell down.

  12. Things change quick once you hit the 2-way range. Now just imagine those paintballs being 7.62 and 5.45’s flying at you. The IBA may be a nightmare to wear but I am grateful we had them.
    I’m glad you had the opportunity to take place in this training. Sounds like you and the Rabbi had fun while running some high speed low drag hooah type scenarios. I know I had a blast going through simmuntion shoot houses in Ft Leonard Wood during pre mob.

  13. That training sounded very helpful.

    Why wouldn’t training with paintball guns being almost as useful? Or for someone who is severely constrained financially, wouldn’t training with airsoft guns even be useful?

    I am thinking the main point of that training is that it is dynamic: you get to see how shooting at a moving target — while quite possibly moving yourself — is a whole different ball game. And I am thinking the secondary point of that training is that you stand a good chance of taking rounds yourself and had better be prepared to continue fighting.

    • As someone who played a fair bit of paintball in my younger days… Nope, nada, nein. Paintball trains people to be much much much more aggressive than you actually want people to be in a situation like that.

      If, in the insanely unlikely situation that you, as a civilian, are involved in a gunfight, the first order of business is to make sure you survive.

      If you are in a paintball game, the first order of business is to take out at least one (and preferably two) opponents. If you don’t make it in the process, eh, whatever.

  14. I have taken FonF training at Tactical Defense Institute ( Well worth it. Their shoot-house training already is enough to get the adrenaline going. When there’s someone shooting back, you really get pumped. Well worth the time and money, and it’s definitely better than simply punching holes in paper.

    I practice moving and shooting with an airsoft gun that replicates my regular gun, but I’ve never tried it in FonF. I don’t know how that would work. My major concern would be that it would blur the distinction between cover and concealment, since just about anything will stop an airsoft pellet.

  15. I’ve done 7 or 8 Simunition force on force training days over the last 11 years. I found it to be extremely useful. Unlike paintball and airsoft, the Simunition round fires out of a modified gun that usually maintains the same magazine capacity and overall ergonomics as real guns. The rounds themselves are less accurate than real guns, but are good enough to make body hits with a handgun at 25 yards or so. They also have AR’s set up with Sim rounds. As you might expect, the guns and ammo are pretty pricey. One quickly learns the survival techniques of fire and movement – as your “bad guy” will be doing the same thing.

    To succeed, you’ve got to make good, fast hits, run fast, and make good tactical decisions. A good opponent of similar skill will probably hit you. Through a mixture of luck, good shooting, good searching techniques, etc. I haven’t yet been shot by a Sim round or “stabbed” by a painted training knife.

    I highly recommend that anyone who owns and carries tries Simunition training. It’s a very useful reality check. I was one of the few people who “survived” a scenario against a half-dozen attackers because I turned tail and ran. Call it a “tactical retreat,” if you will. The scenario was stopped, and I told the trainer during the debrief that time was on my side if I could escape and call in back up. He smiled and told me that I was one of the few people who considered that option, because it was the only way to survive that scenario.

  16. He smiled and told me that I was one of the few people who considered that option, because it was the only way to survive that scenario.

    Just goes to show you how many people, even people serious enough about self-defense to take a Simunitions course, still think they’re in a movie, thinking that they can shoot their way out of any situation.

    As I read back over that just before I hit send, I realized it could be taken as a snarky mikebnumbers type comment. That is not how I mean it. I mean it in a “check your attitudes at the door” kinda way.

    • No problemo.

      Most of the scenarios were set up to be “survivable” if good safety tactics were followed. Some were just plain shootouts. Good times.

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