June 14, 2022
By Richard Nance
After mastering handgun safety and developing a firm grasp of the fundamentals of marksmanship, many people assume they are ready to protect themselves or their loved ones with a handgun. Those who understand the naiveté of this rationale may believe that more advanced training—where they learn to shoot with greater speed and accuracy—is the answer. While this can’t hurt, even high-speed/low-drag live-fire training can only go so far toward preparing you to defeat a living, breathing adversary intent on harming you.
Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in a three-day team tactics course sponsored by Mossberg at the prestigious Gunsite Academy in Paulden, Arizona. While there was plenty of live-fire training with Mossberg’s red-dot-ready micro-compact MC2sc, the culmination of the course was several force-on-force scenarios using Simunition marking cartridges.
The idea behind Simunition training is that since you are interacting with another person rather than a target, when you commit a tactical error, there’s a good chance you’ll be shot with a non-lethal cartridge containing a detergent-based marking compound. The mark and associated sting serve as excellent teachers. As a Simunition instructor, I have participated in and overseen numerous force-on-force scenarios. My partner in the team tactics course wasn’t nearly as familiar with the sting of a marking cartridge, but that was about to change.
He would also learn there’s a lot more to defense than you’d learn in a live-fire course. Am I legally justified to bring my gun into play? Where is my nearest cover? Do I have a safe backdrop? Am I dealing with more than one assailant?
After donning the appropriate protective gear, which includes a helmet, throat guard and groin protector, my partner and I were briefed on our first scenario. We were told we were renting a room in a vacation house and were directed to a room in the back of a structure. As we sat down, we heard someone else in the house. We drew our pistols and got behind cover. I saw someone down the hall and called out to him. Was he renting a room also? Was this a drunk who accidentally entered the wrong house?
Nope. It was soon apparent that this was an armed burglar. When I realized this, I simulated calling 911 and remained in a position where I was shielded from the threat—at least the threat I could see. Turns out, the burglar had a buddy, as was evident by the familiar sting and subsequent colored detergent stain on my shirt sleeve.
This initiated an intense “gun battle,” during which my Simunition pistol malfunctioned. As I was preoccupied with getting my pistol back into action, I failed to realize my partner hadn’t made the best use of available cover, as was evident by him taking a Simunition round. I don’t believe any of my fellow attendees came away unscathed, but perhaps we could have.
You see, my partner and I, upon realizing the house we were renting was being burglarized, could have shut the door and locked it, in addition to calling 911. Then we could have trained our guns on the only door leading to the room we were in. This would have given us a distinct advantage had the burglars decided to enter.
My partner’s inexperience with this type of training explains his mistakes. I didn’t have the same excuse; I knew better. All I can think is that the cop in me wanted to keep the armed intruder in sight and part of me felt duty bound to apprehend him—not the best tactic when you’re in a rental house with a buddy. Fortunately, the next scenario offered a shot at redemption. It was simple enough. My partner and I were to walk out of the house and enter a pickup parked nearby. I headed to the driver side, while my partner walked to the passenger side. I didn’t notice anything unusual in or around the pickup, so I got behind the wheel. Then, suddenly, I heard my partner yelling at someone. I exited and saw someone emerge from behind a building and approach the rear of the pickup.
I could see there was nothing in the person’s hands, but his persistence and the fact that he kept closing distance despite my partner commanding him to stay back alerted me to move behind the engine block, where I covertly drew my pistol. I was aware that my partner had followed suit. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw another subject approach from my right flank. As I verbally challenged him, he drew, and I shot him several times. This time, it was the bad guy’s gun that malfunctioned. I heard more shots and knew my partner needed help. Since my partner and the other attacker were still slinging lead (I mean detergent), I flanked the attacker and shot him in the side of the helmet, causing him to acknowledge that he was out of the fight and mutter, “Good shot.” In this scenario, we used better tactics and had a much more favorable outcome.
These scenarios occurred back-to-back, taking no more than 15 to 20 minutes including debriefs. There were several other scenarios in the course curriculum. Each offered learning lessons with real-world application. Force-on-force training reinforces that, in armed conflict, the winner isn’t necessarily the shooter with the fastest draw or the best split- times. In a gunfight, the winner is often the one who keeps a cool head and makes appropriate decisions under duress.