Defensive Skills, Combat Skills and Tactical Dress-Up

tactical dress
| November 8, 2015
Categories: Op-Eds


Point-Counterpoint. As we have mentioned before, sometimes our minions vehemently disagree. Sometimes it’s more of a “well, that’s true, but have you thought about this?” This is yet another of those times.

Jane you ignorant slut

Grunts: vehement.

Today’s guest article is about the distressing tendency of some people to train more often in doorkicker garb than what they normally wear, you know, normally. This is one of those times where the opinions of our various flunkies run the gamut from rabid agreement to polite contention. As you know, many of our minions are FAGs (Former Action Guys). We get it – it’s nice to throw on a helmet and a battle belt and run and gun. That doesn’t obviate the need to train realistically and at least attempt to replicate scenarios you might encounter in real life – which doesn’t mean there aren’t some benefits to training operator-fashion (though few of us have much use for blatant entertrainment).

Today you get one point. Later, you’ll get a counterpoint. You don’t have to agree with either one, obviously. We’ll end with a question – if you have a spouse, kid or friend who also goes heeled, when’s the last time you guys practiced communicating during live fire training? The Mad Duo

Priorities in Training – Defensive Skills, Combat Skills and Tactical Dress-Up

Mike Kupari

Start by watching this. It’s entitled “react to contact.”

Okay, I’m going to be a tactical buzzkill here. There’s an abundance of firearms instructors out there, some with a decidedly tactical bent. If you believe the purpose of carbine classes is for regular guys to gear up, run, gun and have fun, then it’s not a big deal. A lot of these cats, instructors and students alike, take themselves very seriously though (if you don’t believe me, peruse the forums at Some of what’s taught is, perhaps, questionable. If your plan to “react to contact” (at close range!) is stand in the open, shoot a little bit, then bound back ten feet at a time, without using cover, you’re going to get your ass shot off.

Well, you would if you were going to do this in a war zone. Which you’re not, so it doesn’t really matter. Still, if you’re going to teach this stuff and take people’s money, at least know what the hell you’re talking about.

Personal defense shooting skills are not the same as ground combat skills. Competition shooting skills are not the same as ground combat skills. Shooting is only a portion of what military guys have to deal with in combat; communication and maneuver win the day. Effective use of supporting arms win the day.

The individual rifleman’s stance doesn’t matter much. Neither do his split times. It doesn’t matter how hard you c-clamp your rifle, if you stand in the open while being shot at you’re going to get hit.

Does this mean the skills taught in some of these classes are not useful? Absolutely not. Being able to shoot and hit quickly is a valuable skill. That said, it’s a skill you’ll get from 3-Gun competition. People sneer at competition, saying it’s not “practical”, suggesting they don’t have the right mindset. But let’s be real. Top competition shooters can shoot several times better than you or me. If the SERIOUS SHOOTER TACTICALLY DYNAMIC STRATEGIC CARBINE CLASS full of would-be operators decked out in MultiCam and plate carriers isn’t teaching fire and maneuver or use of cover, how is it different than competition practice?

There’s nothing wrong with just mastering the basics. The basics are fundamental (so much so they’re also called, well, “fundamentals”). Having a solid foundation will, all by itself, take you a long way.

Operators are standing by

The question to ask yourself is, what are you training for? If you’re military and training to go to war you better be training to react to contact, to fire and maneuver. This is a subject infantry units take seriously. They spend a lot of time practicing this stuff, and not only with this live-fire training. Being able to not only shoot but also move and communicate effectively is what turns a bunch of dudes with guns into a fireteam. If you’re not infantry but will be attached to an infantry unit, talk to the guys you’re going to be with. Learn how they do things. Train with them if you can, even if it’s just on a sand table. Get on the same page with them. It makes you less of a liability.

If you’re a civilian police officer, your threats and rules of engagement are different. You might be on your own. In that case though, use of cover becomes even more critical. You don’t have anyone to watch your back. If you go down there’s no one to help you, and if you’re incapacitated you’re at the mercy of your attacker. Being able to quickly identify and use cover could be the difference between life and death, especially if you’re armed with a handgun while facing an opponent with a rifle.

A private citizen defending his home faces unique challenges. There probably isn’t a lot of cover in your upstairs hallway. You may have children to protect. You may be half awake, in the dark, and not wearing pants. A citizen carrying a handgun out in civil society has unique threats as well.  Violent encounters are typically sudden, fast, and at very close range. There may not be time for maneuver. You may be lucky to even get a proper sight picture.

These are things to keep in mind when selecting training, especially if you have a limited budget. Playing tactical dress-up and running around with your favorite AR-15 is fun, but if you can only afford one block of training you need to ask if you’d be better served by a concealed handgun course. Whatever handgun you typically conceal is a hell of a lot harder to shoot well than your rifle, and you’re a lot more likely to need it. By the time you realize what’s happening, someone may already be beating you viciously or worse. You’re not going to have your rifle, plate carrier or (sigh) “war belt”.

I’m a paid fiction writer, and I have a hard time coming up with a scenario where a private citizen grabs his rifle, throws on his many-pocketed tactical pants and plate carrier, makes liberal use of that rifle against multiple opponents, and doesn’t go to jail afterward.  You’ll get more out of handgun training than you will out of planning for a running gun battle in your subdivision.

Operators gonna operate

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If you’re a “tactical” instructor who offers “tactical” training for “operators” (possibly catering to military and law enforcement), you owe it to your students to teach the importance of locating, moving to and using cover. Shooting from cover shouldn’t be an afterthought in an “advanced”, “combat”, or other tactical shooting course. Locating and using cover is fundamental to staying alive in combat. It’s just as important a skill as being able to shoot. In an ambush, I’d rather be a bad shot than bad at finding cover. In the sandbox, jungle or on the street, cover is your friend.

It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. A dozen students who will never see each other again don’t need to spend a week learning to be a squad. Moving to and shooting from cover is an individual skill that can be taught to individual students though, and it’s something that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Below are examples of how the Army and Marines teach “react to contact”. Not sexy, not flashy, not dynamic (and no beards), but it works. Notice that nobody is standing still in the open. There’s a reason for that.

So Sayeth Kupari

Stand by for a different perspective on this sort of thing once one of our other minions gets around to writing a counterpoint.

As always, this article was brought to you by the benevolent munificence of JTF Awesome.


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images_Kupari-Operator-as-FuckAbout the Author: Mike Kupari is a former EOD Tech turned UXO technician who does contract work in interesting places. A self-professed revolverphile and sixgun aficianado who writes for Baen Publishing, he is one of the few people we know who can combine basket weave leather and tiger stripe camo and somehow manage to make it look good. Kupari is the co-author of the novels Dead Six and Swords of Exodus and hopes to someday build a porta-potty cleaning empire with a whole fleet of those shit-sucking trucks. Let’s change “Kupari’s Honey Wagons Worldwide” dream into a reality. Read him here on Breach-Bang-Clear and buy his books.

Kupari with tricked out rifle


OAF huh?


  1. Wilson

    That video is… well quite frankly, it’s amazing. An amazing display of stupidity.

    The really sad thing that I’ve seen guys dressed like this at a public rifle range!

  2. Jack

    Brings up another point.

    You see videos of classes with all the guys slowly walking to the targets firing as they go.

    Is that for use against unarmed villagers?

    Do any real soldiers train this way?

    Just a “too young for Vietnam” non-soldier here.

  3. CDG

    Can I get an amen! I want to see the class where all the mall ninjas wearing their high speed plate carriers get git in the chest with a bat and then run their course of fire.

  4. Desk jockey

    Does left hand hooter put a round in the ground near his foot at the 8 second mark? Was the contact on the bottom of his shoe?

    • Beck

      Good eye… but I think that was just some JJ Abrams lense flare action.

  5. Skipjack

    I was ambushed by Kupari at the poisoned pen in Scottsdale. Your “in person” creepiness doesn’t come out in your writing! Good for you!!!!

  6. phil

    i’m not a trained ninja warrior by any stretch of the imagination, but i do keep a holster handy on a belt sized to just throw over my shoulder. I refer to it as my ‘grab gun while naked and run away’ carry option. a home defense pistol class where you start out asleep in bed would be rad–and not just to see what the favorite tactical pajamas are–but it would be harder to make it look cool.

  7. Joe



    Oh dear. That react to contact video is very unfortunate.

    I soldiered for ten years, always in a rifle platoon and in every role from dumb digger to platoon commander. I never once saw anything like that.


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