Force-on-force training is one of the most beneficial activities you can partake in if you are serious about self-defense. While taking good shooting classes and routinely practicing at the range is important, I always encourage concealed carriers to do at least a little bit of competitive shooting, and to take at least some force-on-force training. Those two activities are the best way to build an inoculation to stress and prepare yourself for decision making with a gun in hand. It has been a while since I have done any force-on-force training, so I decided to make that a training goal for this year.
Good force-on-force is hard to come by because it requires a lot of effort and production. Despite that, I did not have to go far for it this time because Elite Shooting Sports in Manassas Virginia, not far from my neck of the woods, offered a class called Active Threat Response Level 1 that I attended this past weekend. They have been offering this particular class about twice a year for a while, so I got in on it this time around.
This course is a single day, eight-hour event. The facility is phenomenal: it is an enormous gun range and there is a dedicated shoot house that is state-of-the-art. The shoot house is typically used by different government and law enforcement agencies, but this class puts it to use for civilians. This particular class is scenario based force-on-force training using simunitions. This is, absolutely, the best way to conduct force-on-force training, as the simunition guns provide some pain penalty feedback and some noise and blast. However, it demands a highly controlled environment to keep things safe, so it is hard to come by. The Active Threat Response class focuses entirely on self-defense scenarios within structures and is geared towards home or office defense.
There were twelve students in the class, and there were at least seven instructors/staff involved. The staff did all of the roll playing for the scenarios. Again, force-on-force like this is a big production, so the class size is small and the instructor cadre is large. The morning was spend with an overview of handgun fundamentals, then an overview of criminal behavior and crime stats, particularly focused on the crime trends of the local area. I thought that was a nice feature. The morning ended with everyone being taken into the shoot house and the instructors provided a very good exercise in the basics of using cover. The fundamentals of using cover and pieing corners were taught and this skillset was, of course, emphasized throughout the scenarios.
Dealing with door entries, stairways, and other elements of tactical movement are not covered in this class, but this is billed as a level 1 course. With that said, while a SWAT team operator may need the advanced stuff, the average home defender can be very well served with even a basic understanding of using cover and handling corners if they practice it once in a while. I think this class does a good job of introducing the basics of this tactical movement, and the scenarios all greatly emphasize the importance of these skills.
After a break for lunch the entire afternoon was spend running scenarios. Each student went through four different scenarios, doing each one two or three times. During the down time while waiting for your next turn in the classroom there was ongoing and excellent discussion with an instructor who is an ex-law enforcement officer and an attorney. This particular instructor was very informative and he fielded any legal questions asked by the students. After each scenario you went into a sectioned-off room in which two other instructors walked you through each of your runs, all of which are recorded on multiple cameras, providing feedback on what was good and what needs work. A very high-tech operation, certainly.
I will not go into any detail on the actual scenarios as I do not know how similar or different they may prove each time this class is offered. I can only tell you this: the scenarios were excellent and the staff were fantastic role players. They truly did a wonderful job of capturing the chaos of violent confrontations. The facility is state-of-the-art, and the instructors were an excellent team. Force-on-force training is important for your development if you wish to be prepared to defend yourself from the criminal element, and this class is an excellent option. If you live in Northern Virginia, or anywhere within striking distance, I cannot recommend this class highly enough.
To see their course offerings visit www.eliteshootingsports.com