Active Killer Resolution - Talon Defense
On a hot July weekend, I joined a crew of 8 people for Talon Defense's Active Killer Resolution course. It was hosted by Double Tap Training Grounds in Calera, Alabama. I've previously trained at Double Tap, so I knew what to expect in regards to the facility and location. The course called for a day of flat range work and then a day of force on force exercises in the shoot house. Per the website's description, the course was to cover the following:
This course will give insight into the history of the “active shooter” mentality and the events that have shaped the response to these events. Day one will start off in the classroom with a lecture on mind set and preparation to include the necessary equipment to properly intervene and/or be of assistance during a mass casualty event. A flat range work up will also be conducted on day one that will test equipment selection, set up and placement. All range work will be done from concealment, Accuracy standards will be stressed. Day two will be primarily Force On Force drills and scenarios.
Day 1: Safety Briefing, Classroom Discussion, Live Fire Work
We arrived on scene for a 09:00 kickoff in the classroom where Chase did his usual safety brief. I've written several times in the past about how Chase is the only person I've ever trained with where I actually enjoyed the safety briefing. He uses dry humor to make his points and covers not only all the safety protocols that he requires, but also why he requires them. The safety briefs that Chase does are worth the tuition costs alone.
After the safety briefing Chase outlined what we would be doing both on Day 1 as well as Day 2, and then he immediately took us into the Active Killer mindset and profiles. We talked about the different types of Active Killer events that are becoming more and more prevalent, and the usual profiles of the perpetrators in these events. Specifically we covered the profiles for school shootings, church / mall / public places, workplace shootings, open events, and terrorist attacks. In this course, we were primarily focused on workplace and public areas as the arena.
After spending some time in the classroom, we went out to the range to go through the flat range, live fire work. Per Chase's usual, we don't get warm-ups before our skills will be tested in a real situation, so he doesn't go through any warm-up exercises prior to putting us in a situation with a little bit of stress. We paired up with whomever was next to us, and at Chase's mark, we would draw our firearm from concealment and place one shot in the designated area of our target. Who's going to get that good, accurate hit first- you or your opponent?
After this initial exercise we went through the rest of the flat range exercises that Chase usually does. However, because this was an advanced class, he spent virtually no time going through reloads, malfunctions, and other manipulations as it was assumed that we could all sub-consciously run our firearms. Everyone in the course had prevously trained with Chase, and many of us had trained with him multiple times. What Chase did cover at length was the correct ways to move around with a firearm without muzzling anyone around you. There are people that need a muzzle pointed at them and others that don't, and it's absolutely vital that we correctly distinguish between the two. We covered Temple Index, Holster Index, and "Muzzle Down" or "sul" position. Chase talked about the advantages and disadvantages of each position as well as how each is situationally dependent in regards to their usage. For instance, if my partner and I are working around cover, and I'm in a low position with my partner working over the top of me, then I shouldn't go to a muzzle up (temple index) position as I would be pointing the firearm at him. Likewise, he shouldn't use a muzzle down retention position for the same reason. Like so many other things we covered, it is all situationally dependent.
Many of the exercises that Chase put us through included movement for multiple reasons. First, getting our heart rate to increase forces us to focus on the fundamentals under physical stress, a requirement that would be tested because of the heat, movement, and opponents shooting at us throughout the weekend. We also worked multiple drills where we would have to move amongst each other and properly identify a retention method that worked for the situation at hand. For instance, we would stand in a line and every other person would be in a kneeling position while the others remained standing. We would work the targets with whatever shot placement Chase called out, then he would have two people switch. We'd have to identify if we were going to be in a kneeling position or a standing position and then choose a retention method that wouldn't muzzle anyone around us while moving to that position. Again, a little more physical and mental stress that Chase slowly adds to each exercise with increasing intensity...
These exercises (and other similar ones) lead us to the end of day one. The heat was relentless. To put this in perspective, I was wearing a long sleeve t-shirt designed to protect the wearer from the sun. I had another t-shirt on top of that for concealment. Two days after the class was over, my arms and shoulders were peeling from sunburn. It was hot. Very hot... For those that have ever trained with Chase, you know that no Talon Defense class is complete without a thunderstorm with Biblical style flooding. So, in true fashion, Chase summoned a monsoon to close us out on day 1. There was zero chance of rain in the forecast- until Chase showed up. This concluded day 1.
Day 2: Force on Force Scenarios, Shoot House
Because of the flash flood summoned by Chase on the previous day, we began Day 2 with an exercise that we weren't able to complete on Day 1. We got to work on the flat range and would work through some different scenarios where we would have to manuever around other people. Chase would arrange for people to be walking in all different directions and then would tap one person in the crowd and call out a number which corresponded to a target that the chosen person was to engage. However, since the person he chose was basically always in the middle of the crowd that person would have to work their way through the group of people before drawing their weapon to engage the designated target. During this exercise Chase also worked with us on verbal queues and commands that we could use to help the people around us. For instance, we would work on yelling out "That guy has a gun" instead of just "gun" since we were likely to be producing a firearm as well. We would work on verbally identifying yourself as a good guy and then ways to corral people together for movement and protection. This was a useful set of skills that would immediately be put to the test as we transitioned into the shoothouse.
Since this course focused on active killer scenarios, we needed to have everybody present in each scenario. This meant that there was very little down-time compared to many other shoothouse courses that I've taken where only a limited number of people can be working at a time. This was great because even on the runs where an individual was just a bystander, they still got a front-row seat to the action that they were part of and it made for a situation much more condusive to learning. Aside from the breaks we would take to hydrate or de-brief, there was very little downtime for anyone in the course on day 2. While this became a little bit physically and mentally challenging because of the heat, it definitely made each scenario more inclusive and packed with lessons learned.
Because of the smaller number of participants and the skill level that each possessed, we were able to get through quite a few different scenarios in the house. These included:
- A parking lot where we were walking around multiple vehicles
- Road Rage incidents, again working in and around multiple vehicles
- A domestic dispute at a doctor's office
- An Active Killer in a work environment
- 3 different scenarios from inside a shopping mall (including low-light situations where Chase killed the lights without warning)
- An argument between two people in a restaurant
- An armed robbery at a restaurant/bar
- A movie theater with a mass shooter
In short, we were able to get quite a few runs in the shoothouse, which made for an awesome learning experience. If you've read any of my other shoothouse course reports, you'll know that I take away the most lessons from active runs in the house, and this course provided quite a few of them.
Conclusion: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
I try to end all of my After Action Reports with three sections: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. These are written solely from my perspective and are intended to serve as a guide for my own recollection, feedback for the instructor from a student's perspective, and my key take-aways that I'd like to share with potential students that might take this course in the future. Sort of my way of showing the instructors what I liked and didn't like as well as what to expect for future students...
If you've read any of my After Action Reports written about Chase's classes, then you'll know that I'm very fond of the way that he runs his courses. Chase is a true professional in every sense of the word. There's a reason that I keep returning to take more of his classes...
Other than the obvious upsides that Chase brings to the table, this course had multiple other "good" aspects to it. First and foremost, I truly believe that any TTP's (Tactics, Techniques, Procedures) that are going to be taught and trained must also be tested under opposing circumstances. In other words- does it work when someone is actively trying to make it not work? Force on Force training allows us to truly vet our skills and TTP's under these circumstances of opposition, and I think the value of that alone could not be overstated.
If you're not training in Force on Force classes, you should be. If you're not at the skill level required to be able to safely participate in these types of courses, then work those skills until you progress to the level required to join. In my opinion, it's easily the most important training test that we can do as it challenges us mentally and physically.
This course contained a fantastic amount of participation in the shoothouse for each person involved due to the nature of the content. Chase provided outstanding instruction as he always does, and the content in the classroom was thorough, pertinent, and helpful. It was a great class.
Per usual- this is just my opinion of how I think the course could be improved on the next run... Also- note that Chase actually asked us at the end of the course for this feedback, another mark of a professional. I will provide the same feedback here that I did verbally in the classroom.
As with most Force on Force training classes, I have my biggest "ah ha" moments in the shoothouse. Therefore, I'm always wishing we could have spent just a little more time there, no matter how much time we had. This course is no different, even though the level of participation in the shoothouse was vastly greater than most courses due to the nature of the content and the fact that each person participated in each run. Still, I want more... I would like to see a "Level 2" version of this course where we only have a half-day of flat range work and we get more time in the force-on-force runs. I know that this would increase the cost of the tuition (because simunition rounds are expensive), and I'm okay with that. I'd like to see some version of this course offered to vetted students who have already taken this version where we spend less time on the flat range and more time in the shoothouse. That's literally the only way that I could see room for improvement on this training, and that's likely greedy of me to request.
This section contains things that aren't necessarily good or bad, but that are worth noting for future students. First and foremost- the heat. Good God, at the heat... I'm not sure why Alabama feels like it's only about 3° cooler than the depths of Hell, but July and August classes are ridiculously hot here. Chase does provide ample breaks to hydrate, but there's little that can be done when it's as hot as it was during this class. I highly recommend that anyone in this course bring a "frog-tog" which is a towel that when wet will cool down significantly. It makes a huge difference to wrap that around your neck or head in between exercises.
Another ugly aspect of this class is the fact that it's almost impossible to get to the location without traveling down I-65 in one direction or another. I'm very used to driving in Atlanta where the traffic is horrendous, and I was taken back at how inefficient and slow I-65 is in both directions. I'm not sure if it's Alabama drivers or the engineers that designed the interstate there, but I-65 is always laughably broken. On the way to the course, I had a 2 hour delay south of Birmingham. On the end of day one, it took me 38 minutes to drive the 4.2 miles back to my hotel room. If you're planning on training at Double Tap, plan on leaving yourself plenty of time so you can frustratingly cuss about the ridiculous amount of traffic on an interstate that should have very little.
Chase hit a home run with this class, which we've come to expect. I really hope it's one that he offers in his usual rotation of classes because the content was well presented, pertinent to virtually anyone who walks around in public, and really fun to participate in as a bonus. If you're of the required skill level, do yourself a favor and jump in this class the next time it's offered. It'll definitely make you a better asset to have in an active killer situation.