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Forcing the issue: force-on-force training is not without its pitfalls.

AFTER A FEW YEARS OF CONDUCTING force-on-force training, I've made some observations that are worth considering. For instance, how what I learned in these exercises might affect what (and how) you practice for self-defense. One constant I and others have found is there is no one best method or technique that will work for every occasion. Actually, avoiding or leaving is the best choice most times.

I saw one excellent example of this in a force on force "mugging" by three role players in a 50x15-foot "alley." There were only two exits, with two threats facing and one coming up from behind. Grasping the problem in an instant, the student made a dead run between the two facing threats for the exit behind them--and none of the three threats knew how to react.

In one instance, a three-person mugging was run two ways--one live fire and one force-on-force. Targets and threats were but five feet away and close to each other.

In the live-fire exercise, every entrant stood his ground and shot two-handed, putting one or two rounds on each target. But when role players and FX-firing handguns were introduced for force on force, things changed.

First off, no one stood still. Everyone moved either sideways or diagonally rearward as shots were fired. Shooting (which was done as fast as possible) began when guns came level to an intended target, and the whole thing was over before most guns were at eye level.

In the same exercise, the student verbalized during the live fire, using the usual accepted commands such as "stop," "get back" and so forth. In FX mode, if or when the student did verbalize, it was while he was firing away. There was also less shot discipline: sometimes one shot per threat; other times, two.


The volume of fire was also directly affected by how many FX rounds were loaded. When we started doing FX drills, the FX ammo was donated but quite limited. To limit consumption, we loaded only six rounds per handgun. On other occasions we had lots of FX ammo and loaded pistols with up to 15 rounds.

What we saw was that more shots were fired, with many fired wildly. "Spray and pray" took over. Hits didn't increase, and in some instances they decreased, with the scenario often being resolved before the guns went to slide lock.

It's important to note here that the scenarios included situations such as the aforementioned street mugging, a carjacking and a robbery at the gas pump. Every effort was made to present only problems highly likely to be encountered by a legally armed, non-sworn citizen.

When this standard was deviated from, such as with a multiple room-clearing drill with threats at longer distances, such as seven to 10 yards, the participants had two hands on the gun and used or looked over the sights. They moved slowly while using cover and topped off their guns with spare ammo where prudent to do so. Clearer and more precise commands were repeatedly given. Thus, how the problem is constructed clearly directs responses.

For those who have not done any force-on-force training, one question is, Just how realistic is it? The foregoing illustrates it can be fantasy or reality.

For some first-timers, the experience can be traumatic. In one instance, a person was hit once in his abdomen when his body armor had ridden up above his lower torso. When he exited the scenario, he was quite pale and dazed.

I asked him what had happened. He stopped, and after a few seconds he pulled up his chest padding and exclaimed, "I was shot!" He had a bleeding bruise from the FX marking capsule. He returned to normal after a few minutes but was still visibly shaken.

In another drill, a person was shot with an FX round that struck his body armor. He reacted by falling backward to the ground. After a few seconds, he looked around sheepishly and got back to his feet.

These are but two such reactions. In other instances, the individual shot didn't even notice he was hit and had to have his welts or bruises pointed out to him when the scenario was concluded. Some had to be physically interrupted from their aggressive actions at the end of an encounter. Others quit upon receiving their first "owie."

To further sharpen this emphasis on reality, we found that doing multiple runs took a toll on the FX role players as well. For instance, two of our guys, both military veterans--one with two combat tours in Vietnam and the other a retired law enforcement officer with past assignments in SWAT, a bomb squad and firearms examination--asked to be excused after a day of role ing where they probably had a dozen or more "gunfights."

The 'Nam vet said he wanted out because he had had flashbacks after a day of role playing. The other fellow simply said he had worked hard and successfully at putting all "this"--gesturing toward a scenario--behind him and didn't want to go back.

In review, the defensive tactics used in force on force include both point-shooting and sighted fire, movement or not, verbalization or not. Having a lot of ammo or a reload is sometimes a factor, and sometimes it isn't. So your personal training should include one-and two-handed shooting skills and continued emphasis on moving and verbalizing.

If you have a chance to join a force-on-force training session, take it if at all possible. But remember, any scenario setup must offer a no-gun resolution. Also, a little force-on-force goes a long way. Too much at one time and everyone learns to take the hits with relatively light discomfort, and the scenario just becomes a shoot-'em-up.

Last but most important, force-on-force training has well-established and proven safety protocols. Follow every one of them and you will benefit. Violate or ignore any one of them, and you can be severely hurt or killed. Hardly a year goes by that we don't hear about some problem occurring during force-on-force training, and in every instance a safety rule was skipped or forgotten. As you would in a real encounter, if you're uncomfortable with what you're being asked to do, sit out the dance!
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Author:Rauch, Walt
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2012
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