Tactical Training – What it is and what it isn’t

Posted on: May 3, 2010

Tactical Training – what it is and what it isn’t

To be effective in a tactical engagement a person must learn and master (as well as possible) a number of skills. From the obvious ones – bringing your weapon to bear, proper sight picture, breathing and trigger control, being able to fire from a variety of positions (standing, kneeling, prone, using cover) to the not so obvious ones – fighting positions (foxholes), interlocking fields of fire, cover and movement, etc.

There are various ways to gain this array of skills, some better than others. Best, of course, is to be a military trained veteran or police officer with SWAT training. Barring those your next best bet is probably paintball, if you can keep the scenarios (games) fairly realistic (the zombie or protect the president games are kind of out there) and reflective of your particular situation. Some will suggest IDPA (International Defensive Pistol Association) as a good training tool, but I do not agree. IDPA will provide some good basics (better than ordinary range shooting) – drawing your weapon, engaging a variety of target types, avoiding no-shoot targets, etc. But their safety rules limit the realism of the training and can cause a regular competitor to fall into habits or thought patterns that would work against them in a SHTF situation. More importantly there is no means of working with a counterpart, so there is no attention to cover and movement which is the key small unit tactical foundation. In a real combat situation you should expect that your opponent will use suppressive fire to pin you down, allowing one or more of their number to get into a position to kill you. The only realistic way to avoid this is by using cover and movement with one or more of your group. In cover and movement one person fires (rapid aimed fire or general suppressive fire) allowing their fellow group member to move into a better position to either engage your opponents or to disengage and get away. However, for cover fire and movement to work the people working together have to be very comfortable working with each other. This isn’t a skill that one can learn from a book and expect to be good at. This is very similar to a team based sporting event, where the team that has practiced together will usually beat the team that hasn’t. If you want to turn a double-play in baseball or softball then your shortstop, 2nd baseman, and 1st baseman had better spend a lot of time on the practice field running over the process again and again. If you want to be able to use cover and movement (one or more of your side laying down cover fire so that one of more of your side can move) then you have to practice it, again and again, until its second nature, until each participant knows what the others are likely to do. Also important is knowing how fast each member is able to move, how else can you time your shots so as not to run out of ammo in your magazine while the person you’re trying to protect is still in the open and exposed? To get good at this you’ll need to run these types of drills over and over, using various weapons, and an array of situations. It does you no good to practice this exclusively with a combat rifle only to find yourself with only a shotgun in your hands when reality lands in your lap. You can get the basics of this down using empty weapons (so you don’t accidentally shoot anyone) and then progress to loaded if you have the opportunity to do so, though I expect that to be difficult if not impossible for most folks.

I’ve heard good things about training programs such as Front Sight, and I hope to check them out personally in the future. But such won’t be an option for most of us due to geographic and/or economic concerns.

Remember that you will fight like you’ve trained. If you train like it’s a game, you’ll fight like you’re playing and someone will make you very dead. If you train like it’s real, every time, you might just survive the experience.

Remember that you may not have your preferred weapon with you, so practice with a variety.

Remember that your opponents may have a variety of weapons, so practice with different engagement ranges. Long (in case they have sniper capabilities), battle (for those with combat rifles), short (for shotguns and similar), and close for handguns.

Once you master these basics you can move into more advanced topics like ambushes, recon by fire, etc. But until you can do basic things like cover and movement you should avoid everything else and just concentrate of those skills.

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