Vehicle Combatives with Guest Instructor
Today I had the pleasure of acting as an Assistant Instructor and Participant in a Vehicle Combatives course with Matt S., a good friend of mine who is an expert at protective services, CQB, and fighting in/around vehicles. We were joined by a group of four fairly experienced shooters, three of whom were civilians and one Law Enforcement Officer. The topics to be covered would be as follows:
- Entering/Exiting the vehicle
- Understanding the "clean" vs. "dirty" sides
- Understanding Cover vs. Concealment
- Shooting into the car vs. out of the car
- Ballistic Trajectory Deviations
- Movement in/around the vehicle
- Weapons Manipulations inside the vehicle
- Working around passengers
Communication with others
- Breaking Contact from Front and Sides
The course lasted for six hours and included a host of drills that continuously increased in their complexity with each evolution. We started with drawing from holster from a static position and placing two shots on our targets. This lead to a slide lock reload which began the discussion about understanding the importance of muzzle awareness and trigger finger discipline as we would soon be working with and around partners.
After everyone was warmed up, we went through and shot multiple areas of the vehicle so that we could see exactly which parts of the car were likely to stop a bullet versus other parts which are most likely not going to act as cover. This exercise also helps to dispel some myths about what happens when you shoot the gas tank, the tires, through windows, and similar common misconceptions perpetuated by Hollywood.
Understanding that there are parts of the car which provide cover, we introduced the V-TAC boards to force each participant into uncomfortable shooting positions and get our heart rates up. The V-TAC boards are a wonderful way to introduce shooters into similar positions and awkward angles that arise when shooting around/through a vehicle. We have two of these boards, and so we were able to separate the group into partners, two of them with Matt and two of them with me. We ran them through the boards multiple times and each time with increasing pressure and forced reloads.
These repititions lead us to the vehicle, where we had each participant get into similar awkward positions and engaging the rubber dummies placed down range. Once everyone had worked through this process a few times, it was time to add a level of complexity. Back to the V-TAC boards, but this time we would introduce malfunctions to the firearms. Furthermore, after successfully engaging the prescribed targets from each slot in the board, the participant would then run to the vehicle in the center where they would work through the positions previously learned while also safely manipulating their firearm through reloads and malfunction corrections. The pace for this exercise was intentionally increasing to challenge the participants ability to work under physical stress. Everyone had their own issues, and everyone was able to work through them accordingly.
To add the next level of complexity, we needed everyone to be able to communicate and navigate around each other. Vehicles often have passengers who may or may not be armed, but regardless need to be considered in a violent encounter. We worked each of the participants through a series of exercises to get them more accustomed to communicating both verbally and non-verbally. In my opinion, I think the largest take-away for most of the participants would likely be the need for adequate communication in order to maximize their chances of prevailing in a violent encounter. As is to be expected, the communication methods were quite poor at first. People forgot to communicate effectively and had trouble handling the requirements of engaging their targets, manipulating their guns, navigating around a partner, and communicating as needed. It is a lot to take in, and so the more of the manipulating and shooting that can be done at a sub-conscious level, the more likely you are to be able to focus on the other requirements. It simply reinforces the need to constantly train the fundamentals so that they are not something we have to think about under stress.
After working through this ad nauseum, it was time to up the ante. Matt walked everyone through a series of methods used to break contact when faced with a coordinated attack. This would combine all of the skills that had been acquired throughout each of the other evolutions and really stress the need for effective communication. We began with the group taking contact from the left side. The lead vehicle would be considered completely down and there would be a need for the following vehicle's passengers to assist in getting the guys from the lead vehicle back to safety. Using bounding techniques with effective cover fire, Matt walked each person through their role and requirements in multiple dry-fire runs. This is a pretty complex series of events, and it is important that everyone excercises their part of the team work in a safe and correct manner. Matt was great about making sure each person understood their role and requirements explicitly and then ensuring that they carried them out safely. After multiple dry-fire runs, it was time to go hot. Charged up and ready- the team went through the same exercise with live fire. The first run was sloppy, slow, and ugly. Each run after got better and better, and by the fourth or fifth everyone really seemed to be clicking well together. They rotated through each of the various roles, and collectively everyone had their own "light bulb" moment where it seemed to all come together.
After multiple evolutions, the vehicles were adjusted and the range was set up to run a similar drill but taking contact from the front. Again, with each run it seemed to make a little more sense to everyone involved. A series of complex tasks got progressively easier to work through as more of the individual pieces became "automatic" and done without nearly as much conscious thought. By the end of the day, everyone was smiling and happy with how far they had come after a long day on the range in perfect Georgia weather. It was quite a day of training, and we look forward to hosting Matt again soon.