Tuesday, June 21, 2011

AAR: Team Spartan Using Cover While Moving and Shooting, Harvey, IL 2008

[I used to blog for the McHenry Co. Sportsmen's Association, but a bit ago I realized that I'm much more a pistol-specialist and decided to dedicate more time to that endeavor. With their permission, I'll be bringing in reviews that originally appeared there. I only started shooting in '07, so please bear with some of my "green-ness" at the time...]

I took this one day course, taught by Spartan's director, John Krupa, in October at the Harvey PD range but have been putting off writing the review for a few months. Some of the material presented necessitated a period of "settling" in my mind. 
The course is very much geared toward advanced shooters looking to build tactical fundamentals for use in a violent confrontation. Mastery of the draw stroke, lateral movement and moving while shooting, and dominating the weapon are necessary prerequisites for the course. While Spartan teaches most often to law enforcement professionals, the material transfers readily to civilian CCW holders. 
The course itself is split into two sections: The first addresses the use of cover adequately in a tactical situation and the second pitted the simmunition-equipped student against a paintball wielding opponent and then against another student in a barrier field. 
Section 1: Using Cover

The good news is that people instinctively understand the need to get behind cover. The bad news is that most uninitiated people have a strong tendency to "crowd" cover and neglect the "lines of cover" provided. Since I've snarked 1970's TV shows in the past (Starsky and Hutch), I'll do it again and add the disclaimer saying that Charlie's Angels and Police Squad!, while getting the instinctive idea of cover right, got the details wrong:


The whole idea behind the sucessful use of cover is:

1. Getting behind the line of cover that some object offers

2. Minimizing your exposure when engaging from behind that object. 

When getting "behind" cover, it isn't necessary to actually run up to the cover. All that is necessary is to put the covering object between yourself and your opponent. If you and an opponent are 50' from a block of concrete (cover), the you don't necessarily need to advance 50' to literally get behind the block when moving laterally, putting the block between yourself and the opponent, may be enough. The idea is that if you are behind roughly the line of sight from the corner of a hard object then you're behind cover. 

Once you are behind cover, you want to give yourself enough room to operate and engage the target from behind the covering object. Minimizing  your exposure is managed by developing the ability to lean out from behind the line of cover while engaging instead. Ideally, you should be able to engage from random locations behind the object - kneeling, standing, squatting, or proned out if necessary. 

We touched briefly on the idea of shifting the eye-dominance used when engaging from weak-hand. For example, if you're right eye dominant, perhaps giving the opponent full view of your head when leaning out to the left isn't the best idea - perhaps shifting eye dominance to the left by closing your right eye would be better. 
Limiting the amount of time you spend exposed also limits your total exposure - a standard motto for infantry during bounding is repeating the phrase, "I'm up! He sees me! I'm down!" during movement. A similar idea exists when engaging from behind cover: Get the body ready, get the gun ready (high ready position), focus on your sights, lean out, look, break a shot if you can and duck back! Touching cover or seeking to brace only slows the tempo down since it introduces one more variable to juggle mentally. You shouldn't need to rest you hands on any object to deliver good combat hits when engaging.
Over the course of the first section we drilled ourselves on evaluating all sorts of object - concrete blocks, blue barrel towers, door ways, curbs, cars, trees - for lines of cover and culminated the first half by running a life-fire engage from cover drill using almost all the objects we'd been exposed to.
Section 2: Force-on-Force Training

This section has been the hardest for me to digest and its evaluation has been holding up this review. The difficulty lies in the fact that this section doesn't deal with the development of a specific technique that can be described to folks, but rather focuses on developing a skill through hard work and mastery of the fundamentals. In short, Force-on-Force centers on fighting rather then techniques or new gizmos. 
In searching for a good analogy, I've come back to my love of boxing and the old adage that "you can't learn boxing from no book" - see there are no secret techniques, only endless repetition of the basic punches and footwork strung together during practice then tested under sparring.

This seems to run contrary to the shooting sports, where there is much emphasis placed on the technique of delivering solids shots and drilling things like mag changes and drawstrokes, but testing the practioners skill of all of these under stress is painfully lacking. Toward this end, the use of force-on-force under the auspices of a course designed to test the practitioners ability to use cover is near perfect since it serves to immediately validate what the student has learned. 

After the first section concluded, students put away all their gear, knives, keys, etc (which could potentially hurt if the student fell on 'em) and we learned how the Simunitions markers and cartridges worked. (Hint: It's a ~300 FPS ~6MM paintball fired from a converted real gun that leaves a welt!!) We suited up and ran through the discussion - we'd be running a stage to evaluate our use of cover while engaging a paintball rifle wielding opponent from various distances. We'd start ~40' away in a car with the seatbelt on, get out and try to deliver hits against our adversary before advancing to ~30 feet behind a low barrier. From there, another barrier at 20' and a final barrier at 10'. From each position you had one magazine's worth of opportunity to deliver hits on the opponent who walked steadily behind a number of plywood walls.

The second scenario centered on facing two students off against each other for one minute in a highly challenging barrier field. The time was kept short in order to keep pressure on and to limit the potentially for the exercise developing into a mere paintball match. The clearest winners were the ones that aggressively closed on the their opponents, seizing initiative and shot them to slide lock. 

When there is someone shooting it out against you, the pucker factor goes into high gear. Getting hit, while it may only be a paintball, underscores a potentially fatal flaw in your approach to utilization of cover! It is annoying to think that there aren't more ways to get this kind of training without joining an airsoft or paintball league and then it is again more sport rather than an exercise in development.