Home Defense (CQB) Force-on-Force with Talon Defense
During a hot August weekend in Calera, Alabama, I had the opportunity to go to Double Tap Training Grounds and participate in the Home Defense (CQB) Force-on-Force class with Chase Jenkins of Talon Defense. Per usual, I'd like to break out an After Action Report of my take-aways from the course and provide feedback for both the instructor as well as future potential students.
Day 1- Angles: They are ever-present, and always changing
I arrived at Double Tap about an hour early and prepped my gear. This would be my first experience running the new HK VP9, and I will write a separate review on it as well. I tried to run a minimalist setup for this course for two reasons:
- The forecast called for miserably hot weather
- Chase's courses are usually fairly rough on gear
I had been assured that this course would be less abusive on our gear, and that turned out to be true. Still, I was already plenty warm and so the less I had on me, the less weight I would have to carry around. We started out in the classroom and began with our safety brief. Usually this is the most boring part of training, but with Chase it is always comical, entertaining, and enlightening.
Safe Shooters, Not Safe Environment
Chase provided us with a similar version of the safety briefing that he usually provides. He gave us examples of why we do certain things in certain ways and also discussed some of the training flaws that had developed into industry standards because of flat-range environments. He even breaks out some of the common "Gun Safety Rules" and talks about their inherent downfalls. Some examples below:
"Don't put your finger on the trigger until you've made the decision to fire." We've all heard it. Admittedly, I've taught it to students who come to my courses. And in just a few brief sentences, Chase has a way of making you both laugh at yourself and slap yourself in the forehead. He uses "Doc" as his example... "If Doc busts in the room right now with a gun in his hand and is yelling that he's going to kill me, and I have my gun in my pocket with my hand on it, do you think I've already made the decision to fire? Obviously, I have... But should I have my finger on the trigger yet? Obviously not, because the gun is still in my pocket."
"The gun is always loaded." Chase explains: "yeah, but guns aren't always loaded. And when we know they're not loaded, we start handling them differently. And every time we handle a gun, that's a training repetition. The mind doesn't distinguish between good and bad habits- it just files them away as possible solutions for gun handling. When a high-stress environment arises and it's time to go to guns, the brain will search its filing cabinet for a solution to the problem. I don't want there to be a bunch of bad solutions in there with the good ones. Therefore, nevermind the idea that the gun is always loaded. Instead, let's use proper gun handling skills at all times."
In short, Chase takes a significant amount of time reiterating all of the ways and reasons that we should strive to create safe shooters instead of the flawed mentality of creating a safe range.
Live Fire - Warm Up and Skills Assessment
With the safety brief complete, we headed out to the range. We began with everyone on the 10 yard line and began working basic fundamentals like drawing from holster. We worked multiple repititions, with Chase monitoring everyone closely. Per his usual, we begin with a "gun fight" where we "race" against the person next to us on the line. At Chase's queue, we draw our weapon and place one hit on the prescribed target zone. First one to get the hit wins. It's usually a humbling experience as the added miniscule stressor of a simulated competition and knowing that everyone is watching seems to highlight everyone's deficiencies in one way or another.
After multiple iterations, we start working in reloads. I won't spend too much time on the fundamentals, because the "meat and potatoes" of this course is far more ineresting than reload drills and malfunction corrections. Just note that we did indeed start with these fundamentals, and added in the step of presenting our weapon from a lean on both the left and right side. That shooting position would become far more relevant throughout the day, as that is the position that we would utilize when engaging a target from around corners.
Classroom - Understanding Angles Within Structures
After our live-fire portion of the course, we headed back inside to the classroom so that we could discuss the common angles that we would be working within buildings. We learned that the three most common shapes and angles that would be present are "T's, L's, and Four-Ways" inside of a structure. While many other exlanations that I've previously heard tend to over-complicate the matter, Chase breaks it down to where virtually every angle you're going to work will fall in one of those three categories. Even after you have entered a room and are checking around furniture or other obstructions, you are still just working smaller versions of those same angles. It was a great explanation.
Understanding what each of the angles looked like and after talking about some examples within buildings, we moved on to how we deal with each one. Chase discussed a few different methods that are possible and then talked about his preferred methods for negotiating each angle. We discussed "slicing the pie," footwork, picking up on visual/audible queues, and more. We went through the different challenges we face when entering a center-fed room versus a corner-fed room as well as the importance of using peripheral vision to pick up visual queues. This would be an important skill to hone in on when deciding which direction to move when entering a center-fed room.
We discussed the priority list of challenges that we would inevitably face within a structure including open vs. closed doors, hallways, stairways, etc. Chase reinforced the idea that our priority list is as follows when entering a room:
- Doorway (open or closed)
- Immediate Area
- Deep Corners (digging with our eyes and muzzle)
- Collapsing the remaining sectors of fire
- Searching for People, Places, and Things
Though he usually avoids the topic, Chase also went into some various scenarios that are possible within residential environments and the legal consequences of each one. It was a fantastic discussion and this piece alone was worth the tuition of the course. The main take away from this discussion, and the key take-away that virtually every participant expressed at some point during the course:
IF AT ALL POSSIBLE, DON'T EVER DO THIS ALONE!
Hooking, Crossing, and Moving
With the above section of the classroom portion complete, we headed back out to the range for more live fire. As we took a water break, Chase set up multiple targets within a simulated structure and called us down one at a time. We each went down and cleared two rooms, dispatching of threats as needed. Chase would correct our footwork, talk about alternative ways that we could have solved the problems, and answered any questions that we had. After everyone had taken their turn, we gathered as a group to discuss some common things that everyone did correctly as well as common mistakes that we made. Chase had a funny laugh about many of the mistakes and said "don't worry- that will be self-correcting tomorrow" as he inferred that with the simunition blocks of the course we would receive painful negative stimulus if we committed the same mistakes.
Structure Clearing: Where Geometry Meets Chess
After the discussion which wrapped up the live fire, we went into the shoothouse to see what this process would look like in a more dynamic environment. We followed Chase through as he did an explanatory walk-through and discussed why he was doing what he was doing. Following him through and listening to his logic was helpful to paint the picture in our mind what it should look like.... After a few million reptitions.
We lined up on the wall, removed the slides from our handguns (ensuring that there could not be an accidental discharge in the house), and began working a similar path to what Chase had demonstrated. Chase watched from the cat-walk and would offer his feedback from above. He would say things like "back up and work that room again, but this time I want you to dig the corner slightly further as you enter."
This section of the course is slow, but necessary. The heat was distracting, but the mental aspect was the challenge that everyone kept talking about as they discussed the endless possibilities one could take throughout the house. Chase phrased it nicely: "With many of these concepts, there isn't a right or wrong but rather just an optimal choice that we can make."
At the end of this section, Chase closed with a de-brief and we broke for the day. At this point, the social aspects of the course began as the grill was lit and the food came out!
Day 2 - Mistakes Hurt, Negative Stimulus Will Be Applied
Day 2 began with a discussion recap of the previous day and some follow-up lessons for us to take in prior to a few dry runs. We worked angles inside the house repeatedly, each time getting a little smoother and a little more comfortable. Of couse, comfort is a very relative term and is liberally applied when you know that there is no one inside the house trying to fire back at you. We also knew that would soon change. After a few dry runs, targets were placed through the rooms and we were to go through the house dry and verbally queue when we had identified a target. Chase watched from the cat walk above, and constantly provided feedback on the routes we had chosen, footwork, and things we had done right/wrong.
After one more brief discussion in the classroom, it was time to break out into our first live run. I was the "op-for" (opposing force) on our first run and after running through 9 scenarios (one for each participant), I was ready to get in the air-conditioning for a moment. It's both physically and mentally tiring when the adrenaline is pumping and the temperature is above 90° (and you're in a shoot-house). The scenarios were designed to get more and more complex with each rotation, making every attempt to get your heart rate as high as possible and forcing you to think your way through the problem. What happens if you make a mistake and don't follow the procedures we were taught? Negative stimulus. Said differently, you get shot. Virtually everyone was on the receiving end of some negative stimulus at some point, which was helpful to reinforce the lessons learned when mistakes were made. As one of us that received negative stimulus during a run where I made a mistake, I can assure you that the stinging sensation on my ribs serves as a much more lasting impression than the verbal reminder I received before the scenario began. It's a mistake I'm far less likely to make again.
Conclusion - The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
Per usual, I will end my After Action Report with a recap of my take-aways from the course.
Content. Content. Content. The #1 reason that people tell me they are purchasing a firearm is for home defense. The problem is that people rarely distinguish between the skill of being able to accurately shoot a handgun versus the skill of being able to adequately fight with a handgun. One requires finite motor skills to accomplish an acceptable level of marksmanship. The other requires the ability to manipulate a gun at a sub-conscious level so that you can focus on the problems at hand. In this course, the problems also focus on you... It's a completely different level of stress and it became readily apparent who had to think about running the gun versus who could think about the tasks at hand.
In short, the best part of this course was the actual content and instruction. There's a reason I keep training with Chase at every opportunity. He's a great instructor and this course was another example of how he can take complex topics and break them down to simple explanations.
If you own a firearm for home protection, this course should be on your calendar today.
Unlike virtually every other course that I've taken with Chase, this course was not designated exclusively for advanced shooters. The advanced shooters certainly performed better due to their sub-conscious gun-handling abilities, but there were definitely some participants who would not be considered "advanced" who still took a lot out of this course. Their attitude, work ethic, questions, and participation contributed greatly to the experience of other participants as well. With that said, this was not a group comprised of only high-level shooters. Couple that with the fact that this is a very difficult skill to become proficient at, and it results in a fairly slow learning process. Each participant requires one-on-one attention and instruction, and there simply isn't a fast way to learn the material. Naturally, if there isn't a fast way to learn it, there can't be a fast way to teach it. There is a good bit more downtime in this course than many others that I have taken with Chase. If Chase ever offers another level of this course for anyone who has already taken this one, I would be all over it. I would hope that the next version would continue to include even more scenario-based runs so that we could pick up right where this course left off.
Note that this is simply my interpretation of "The Bad," and it's still a stretch. 80% or more of the students seemed to be learning at maximum capacity at the exact pace we were on, so this should be interpreted as my critique of the course. Other participants would be almost guaranteed to have different contributions to "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly."
August + Alabama + Shoot-House = HOT. It was certainly warm, but not to such an extent that anyone was unable to learn. The shoothouse is indoors and ventilated, though not air-conditioned. The heat factor added to the stress level, but was not something that should deter anyone from participating in the course.
The next part of "ugly" isn't a negative thing, it's just a thing. It hurts a little bit when you get shot by simunition rounds. It's supposed to hurt. Negative stimulus isn't really negative if it's not enough to get your undivided attention. You'll likely leave with a bruise or two, but those bruises will burn a lasting understanding of whatever you did incorrectly to deserve that bruise. It's not that bad, and you should definitely not miss the class because you're afraid of a small red circle on your body. I assure you, even if you get tagged a time or two- you'll be very glad that you took this course.
The venue, Double Tap Training Grounds, was well-equipped for the course. They have a fantastic classroom area, bunk room for overnight guests, multiple range bays for live fire, and a covered two-story shoothouse. It was a great fit for the curriculum covered in this course. Chase is a fantastic instructor, and I'll continue to train with him at every opportunity. This course is relevant to virtually anyone who owns a gun, and I can't recommend it highly enough. I will be enrolling myself and my wife for this course at the next opportunity.