TRAIN LIKE YOU FIGHT, AND YOU WILL FIGHT LIKE YOU TRAIN
The message is simple: Train like you fight, and you will fight like you train. We explain how. By Mike Searson
You can shoot three times a week, compete on the local and national circuits and attend all the defensive carbine and tactical handgun classes available. What does that get you? All that training will make you a better shooter, no doubt. But, unless you try a force-on-force type of class, you may not have an idea of how to interact with potential threats while you are armed.
Force-on-force training is probably the best way to augment your defensive handgun and carbine training, particularly if the course is run well. We hold force on force in the same regard as we do physical combat sports, such as boxing and MMA with regard to the sparring element. You can do all the strength training, roadwork and other physical conditioning there is, but until you actually square off on the mat—in the cage or in the ring against another opponent—your skills are not actually being put to the test.
In the 1960s, the U.S. Navy performed a study on fighter pilots that linked pilot survival rates and combat effectiveness to experience in the air. They discovered that the more experience a pilot had, the better his chances of survival were on a mission. It may seem like a no-brainer to most of us, but it led to the establishment of the TOPGUN program and combat flight simulators. This in turn saved the U.S. government untold millions of dollars by having pilots practice air-toair combat in simulated conditions, so that they would be ready when they went into combat.
This is the thought process behind force-on-force training.
You may do a ton of flat range training, compete in shooting matches on a regular basis and be one of the top shooters in the world, but surviving a violent encounter means more than being the fastest or most accurate shot.
Sometimes it comes down to not having to shoot at all.
One of the problems with force-on-force training is that until recently it was only available within the realm of law enforcement training. Civilians, smaller police departments and even most military units had to rely on MILES (Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System), paintball or even airsoft.
While they give you the sense of engaging a live target, as well as being fired upon, not one of these can truly impart the realism of firing and being under fire, as shooting Simunitions or UTM (Ultimate Training Munitions), in which shooters use a real firearm with special ammunition to replicate an actual shooting.
Fortunately, training cadres like LMS Defense have been bringing these courses to the masses nationwide, and we were lucky enough to attend one hosted by Daniel Bales at the LMS Training Facility in Fernley, NV.
If you have never taken a force-on-force class and are considering it in the near future, we found a few things that may help you with your goals. Keep in mind that the Sim gun will not be your actual carry gun, but a modified pistol designed to be used safely in these courses.
Empty Your Cup
One of the most overused expressions in the martial arts, and even some shooting disciplines, is to “empty your cup,” that is, forget everything you have learned to this point and start anew. That may be good advice for training on a new martial art system or even a new weapon system, but it can be a hindrance in force-on-force training.
The goal of force on force is to strengthen your existing skillset, not to start from scratch. In fact, a course like this should only be attempted after you have acquired other types of training with firearms and shooting.
For example, we had a scenario in which an unruly customer stormed into a convenience store, acting belligerently to the clerk and then to us. We went through a few similar real-life incidents like this in the past. On those occasions, and in this one, we covertly drew our pistol, held it discretely, and were ready if things escalated. (Note: this is much easier to do with a tiny Seecamp 32 or an NAA Mini revolver than with a UTM Beretta 92.) This incident escalated to where we had an attacker waving a fixed-blade knife within bad-breath distance. Not wanting to take the chance on our carotid being severed, we shot him.
In the debriefing session, we pointed out the proximity of the assailant waving a fake Ka-bar around and
“THIS INCIDENT ESCALATED TO WHERE WE HAD AN ATTACKER WAVING A FIXED-BLADE KNIFE WITHIN BAD-BREATH DISTANCE.”
being within 3 feet. In our previous CQC training with instructors, such as Ernest Emerson, we knew what a determined attacker with a knife could do at that distance. Although the shooting was ruled justified, I was the only student to respond in that way out of the rest of the class. Everyone else successfully evacuated the store and called 9-1-1 outside. My personal learning point was to be mindful to create distance when given the opportunity. However, building upon previous training, that is how I would have acted in a real-life situation. I know better for the next time, whether it is in class or in the real world.
It’s not the OK Corral
Do not look at force-on-force training as a glorified paintball or capture-the-flag type of contest. At some courses, that type of shooting may come into play later in the day as more of a “fun” exercise, but the ultimate goal in this type of training, as in life, is to deescalate the situation without any rounds being fired.
If you hear someone breaking into your “home” during the class, make noise. Inform them loudly that you are armed, and dial 9-1-1. Should you be in a “convenience store” and the bad guy is just being loud and obnoxious, make your escape and call 9-1-1 when it is safe to do so.
Put yourself into the mindset that, despite the face masks and training weapons, this is a real event, and act accordingly.
What hat are you wearing?
There are times when you have to look at things with a new set of eyes.
In one scenario, we happened upon a fight in progress. The victim was on the receiving end of a ground-and-pound by another person. While trying to determine if the victim was a bad guy and the aggressor was a police officer, the aggressor pulled a knife and prepared to stab the victim. Without seeing a badge or having the attacker respond to my commands
to stop, I thought “Cops don’t stab unarmed people that they have been beating on.” Threfore, I drew and fired, probably at too close of a range.
What happened? Seeing a ground-and-pound triggered my past experience as a sportswriter on the MMA circuit. I got as close as I could to determine what was happening. It was a stupid instinct. This wasn’t in a cage or a ring; this was supposed to be outside the local Walmart.
I found this as something I had to work on, and while it may seem to contradict the first point we made, it really does not. We have to be mindful of what “hats” we are wearing at any given time. If you are former military, it is not your job to “locate, close with and destroy the enemy” in every situation.
Simunition rounds may hurt, but don’t play dead
This is not paintball and while that round may only be travelling at less than 400 fps, our first reaction when we were shot was, “That SOB actually shot me.”
Thankfully, though, Daniel Bales of LMS Defense gives an excellent briefing upfront and encourages students to “fight through the pain.” In the past, too many instructors would have their “shot” students play dead.
Maybe on a large-scale law enforcement/first responder class this can make sense to gauge evacuation of injured personnel. In a force-on-force lesson, when it’s your life on the line, think back to how some real-life heroes or even bad guys have survived and fought through a gunfight in some cases, in spite of being riddled with bullets or shot through the heart or the head.
Here we learned to keep on fighting even when shot in the stomach. That won’t kill you out on the street, so it shouldn’t “kill you” in training. If you train to play dead and are shot in a real-life incident, you may literally give up, lie down and bleed out instead of carrying on the fight. Nobody wants that to happen.
Lose your ego
After talking with hundreds of readers, students, trainers and shooters, in our opinion the number one reason why most people do not train is ego.
Nobody wants to look bad or face their potential shortcomings. Training courses are not insanely expensive outside of perhaps travel, lodging and maybe ammunition costs. Yet, we hear how courses are filled by less than 20% of the shooting community. Some instructors place this estimate even lower.
You can mess up as much as you want in training, until you eventually get it right. That is the beauty of training. Most of us learn from our mistakes and if you have the mentality that you did something wrong, own it and vow to not do it again.
Perhaps the most humbling scenario was being unarmed in a room full of students where most of us were unarmed, but at least two were carrying and an active shooting broke out. The armed students engaged and neutralized the threat, but my
reputation as a writer had made me the target in this scenario.
Unarmed against a gun-toting assailant about 50 feet away, forced me to rely on the protection of someone else. That is not a zone that makes me comfortable at all.
Tactical trainers often talk of developing a “combat mindset,” which is important; but not every armed encounter is one with a sociopath. Sometimes it is better to seek cover or create distance between you and the threat, other times it may be closing the distance and engaging directly.
Force-on-force training, like the flight simulator we mentioned, gives you real-world feedback through the scenarios. It was not my first time partaking in this type of training and will not be my last. I walk away with more knowledge every time I take one of these classes.
If you have never taken a force-on-force class, you may want to look into what LMS has to offer in your area or make a special trip to spend a weekend at one of their campuses. We find LMS to offer some of the best instruction in the U.S. and even if force on force is not on your immediate radar, take a look at some of the other courses they offer to round out your skillset. TW
“… by having pilots practice air-to-air combat in simulated conditions, so that they would be ready when they went into combat.”
Is the guy on top the good guy or the bad guy? You may only have a split- second to make that determination.
Just like the real world, when a potential shooting arises in a force- on- force class, present your weapon and use loud verbal commands.
Whether the shooting takes place in a shoot house type of range or in your own house, make use of cover whenever possible.
Top: The firearms are marked with blue components and the holsters are safety orange in order to inform everyone that a training gun is being used.
Bottom: The protective gear and clothing may change how you carry your firearm, but a good student will adapt quickly.
Top: It is not completely a handgun course. Rifles can come into play as well. Bottom: Not every encounter should end up as a shooting. Walking away and creating distance is as justified in these classes as it is in real life.