Brain Dump: the Graham Combat Killhouse

graham combat killhouse
September 5, 2017  
Categories: Learnin'

This article originally appeared on Glock Talk (which you should be keeping an eye one, if you’re not already).  We know the author and trust his judgment, which is why you’ve been given the chance to read what he thinks. Mad Duo


As seen on Glock Talk.

Organization: Graham Combat

Website: Graham Tradecraft

Instructor: Matt Graham

Location: Virginia

When: April 2017

Cost: $850

Round Count: 1,000


Carbine: BCM lower, Radian Weapons upper, PROOF Research 14.5” .223 Wylde barrel, SureFire Warcomp, Leupold LCO, Fiocchi 55-gr.

Pistol: S&W M&P Shield 9 (Warren Tactical night sights, Salient Arms sear), Geco 9mm 124-gr., Blackpoint Tactical Mini-Wing IWB holster.

Reviewer’s Background: Numerous Mil, LE and Civilian shooting and tactics schools as well years of striking and grappling training. Past instructor certifications include California P.O.S.T., Simunitions Scenarios, SureFire Institute Low-Light Tactics, NRA Law Enforcement Tactical Handgun.

Instructor: Matt Graham currently serves as a civilian defense contractor functioning as a full-time firearms and tactics instructor of protective and low profile operations for an agency within the Department of Defense. As a former federal air marshal, Matt operated covertly throughout the world, running low profile counter-terrorism missions. Prior to 9/11 Matt worked patrol as a police officer, both municipally and as a county deputy, and is a recipient of the Life Saving Medal, the Medal of Valor, and the Law Enforcement Medal of Honor.



When I signed up for Killhouse I assumed it would be similar to other force-on-force-based room clearing and assault training that I’ve experienced: Square range drills with movement confined to specific lanes and sectors, then dry/empty weapon drills methodically pieing corners while a teammate handles rear security, and then a final team assault using Simunitions to clear a structure one room at a time. I’m happy to report that Killhouse was something different, although I admit that I initially struggled to reconcile some of the concepts with my previous experiences.

Every CQB (Close Quarters Battle), room clearing, and active shooter training I’ve undergone to date has been delivered on the premise that I will have at least one teammate backing me up, if not four or more. Even in civilian classes students are often paired up with another student. Yes, students will solo corners and even a few close-range force-on-force engagements, but never have I been asked to clear, or traverse under fire, a large building by myself. The reason I suspect is because it’s exponentially more dangerous than doing so with even just one partner, so the conventional wisdom is “Don’t do it.” and it doesn’t get addressed. But I ask you this: If, while leaving school grounds after dropping your child off, you hear then feel the pressure wave from an explosive initiation, followed by the confused screams of children punctuated by the staccato thump of an AK—will you stop to consider the risk, will you allow school security to handle it, will you wait for local law enforcement to respond? It’s a rhetorical question.

Graham Combat Killhouse


Killhouse is not about team movement, it’s not about assaulting, it’s not about clearing every room, and it’s not about killing every bad guy, or even one if you can help it. It’s about finding, extracting, and safely delivering someone in a hostile and possibly non-permissive environment, by yourself. That someone could be a government employee in a secure facility that’s been overrun, it could be yourself in a hotel, or it could be your family in your house, at your daughter’s school, or at the Tuesday dollar matinee pretending to watch Frozen for one more mind-numbing time.

As it turns out team tactics don’t translate well to those scenarios as they are by and large predicated on finding, closing with, and destroying the enemy, while depending on an abundance of manpower, weaponry, technology, and usually intel, to do so as safely as possible. In the scenario’s I outlined above, you won’t have any of those advantages, and most hours of the day the closest I can come is a 9mm handgun with 18 rounds. That’s it, and when it’s gone it’s gone. So if my mission is to extract my loved one in good condition, does it make sense to first focus on finding and killing the threat(s)? If there are 20+ rooms and multiple hallways and open areas between her and I, does clearing and completely securing those spaces make sense, even if it were possible?

Graham Combat Killhouse


If you enroll in Killhouse, Matt Graham is going to share techniques and principles with you: Among other things you’ll learn how often to check your six, turn with a pistol or a carbine in tight spaces, how to clear room after room with minimal muscle fatigue, how far from a room you need to start clearing and when you can shift focus to the next doorway, how to determine the most likely area the threat is in, how to reduce your heart rate under stress, how to attach the person(s) you are extracting to yourself so you can steer them while keeping both hands on your weapon, how to limit duration of exposure to peripheral areas, and if you’re lucky, how to brew a good cup of Seattle coffee in the pouring rain on a range in the middle of nowhere.

But more important than a laundry list of techniques, he’s going to do his best to get you to think for yourself. Chaos is difficult enough to manage when you are working with a trained partner or team, now imagine what it’s like when you are alone or shepherding a frightened six year-old. Conditioned responses won’t cut it—the basics still need to be drilled, but if that’s where it ends you will get overwhelmed the first time you encounter a problem you haven’t specifically trained for. Matt’s standard answer to what-if questions was, “Yes”. His point being that we were supposed to apply the principles we’d heard, seen, and practiced to determine what was best for us in that specific and unique moment. The situation was always dynamic, fluid, and shifting, and to “rise to our lowest level of training” we’d need to learn to process that way as well.

Graham Combat Killhouse


As I’ve already alluded to, this course was about finding, extracting, and safely delivering someone in a hostile and possibly non-permissive environment—by yourself—and not necessarily crushing every threat in the building. Yes, I did happily shoot a few students in the face with Sims rounds, but I also sometimes bypassed rooms altogether, avoided known threats, and didn’t always dig (clear) every corner—because those were the actions required to accomplish my core objective. Almost none of the scenarios could be addressed in a way that didn’t require some compromise in security or even outright dismissal of accepted methods used to clear as a team element. Initially it was somewhat overwhelming, but by the end of the course I felt as if I’d at least progressed from the “what’s a bicycle” stage to being able to do a few laps around the neighborhood without training wheels.


I’ve purposely avoided explicit details when describing Graham’s concepts and teaching methodology. Partially because it seems to be mostly information that’s he’s developed or hybridized himself, but also because I’ve done enough training to comfortably assume that while many readers may think they’ve done similar training, it’s likely that they have not, and reading the analysis of a guy who has only been through the class once is likely to do more harm than good. Matt’s teaching methodology is experiential in nature and you really need to try it for yourself or you’ll just be comparing your previous experiences to my inadequate explanations, at the risk of assuming they are the same.

That said, Day One was 11 hours of pistol and rifle drills in the cold rain (I continue to be impressed with the M&P Shield 9mm I shot concealed from under four layers of clothing. Although full of water and volcanic grit from the range it remained functional for the course and outshot some of the full-size pistols in attendance).

Day Two was just short of 10 hours of dry movement and room-clearing drills with our unloaded pistols and rifles (When, outside of the military, have you actually dry drilled with weapon at extension for more than an hour or two?) Note: The weight reduction offered by my carbon-fiber barrel was immediately appreciated.

Day Three was more dry drills in a full-scale Iraqi compound as well as force-on-force scenarios with Simunitions in a large, multi-room, catwalk-equipped shoot house in both lit and low-light conditions.

This was an excellent course and one of the few that has me still thinking hard days later. There were several law enforcement officers and one active-duty soldier in the course and all agreed that the knowledge gained was applicable to their day jobs as well as the off-duty defense of home and family.

 This article originally appeared on Glock Talk.
Glock Talk is a leading industry forum. You can find it online here. Join the conversation right here. Membership is free, and they welcome everyone from novice to pro. Take a look at their article section here, or their review section right here. You can also find ’em on Facebook.

This article was lovingly prepared for you by the Breach-Bang-Clear News Team.

Mad Duo, Breach-Bang& CLEAR!

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