Tactical World - - Contents - STORY AND PHO­TOS BY MIKE SEAR­SON

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.

Force-on-force His­tory

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


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.

Real Feed­back

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.

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