One of the best ways to augment your self-defense training is to take a force-on-force class. We’ve often compared this to physical combat sports such as boxing and MMA; you can do all the strength training, roadwork and other physical conditioning there is, but until you actually square off on the mat or in the ring against another opponent in a sparring session, your skills aren’t actually being put to the test. It’s not the same as what we call Force on Force.
The problem is that until recent years, this sort of training was available to very few outside of law enforcement. Civilian shooters, some LEO agencies, and most military units had to rely on MILES, paintball or even airsoft. None of these can truly impart the realism of shooting Simunitions, UTM rounds, or other “marking cartridges” where shooters fire a real firearm with special ammunition to replicate an actual shooting.
Fortunately, training outfits like LMS Defense (and our own Aaron Cowan’s Sage Dynamics) have been bringing these courses to the masses. We were lucky enough recently to attend one hosted by Daniel Bales at the LMS Training Facility in Fernley, NV.
Course: Introduction to Force on Force
Training Organization: LMS Defense
Instructor: Daniel Bales
Location: Fernley, NV
When: July 2017
Round Count: 100 (UTM)
Reviewer’s Equipment: A hooded sweatshirt, gloves and safety glasses.
Class equipment: Simunition Pistols and carbines, UTM Man Marking ammunition, holsters and helmet.
Reviewer’s Background: Mike Searson is a former Marine Infantryman, Private Investigator and Boxer. He has over three decades of experience as a shooter and martial artist in multiple disciplines. An instructor in his own right he has taught numerous courses to civilians, government agencies and military units.
Instructor’s Background: Daniel Bales has served in law enforcement for over 10 years. During this time he has worked for a large Sheriff’s department. He has been assigned to detention, courts, patrol and S.W.A.T., and is currently a Rangemaster. He has numerous firearms and tactics certifications, to include handgun, shotgun, carbine, less lethal, force on force, low light tactics, and basic and advanced S.W.A.T. schools.
Mix Of Students: Six students with a wide array of backgrounds including competitive shooters and citizens wanting to develop their defensive handgun skillsets.
Class Overview: Introduction to Force on Force is a scenario based form of training in which the students interact verbally with potential aggressors. The use of UTM Man Marking rounds allows the students to feel what it is like to be in a fight for their life with a firearm, or gives them the opportunity to more accurately experience their response to a hostile situation.
We’ve previously trained at LMS Defense with Daniel Bales for a pair of lowlight courses in the not too distant past. If you’ve never taken a force-on-force class and are considering it in the near future, we found a few things that may help you. Keep in mind that the Sim gun will not be your actual carry gun, but a modified pistol designed to be used safely in such courses.
- Forget that “Empty Your Cup” Nonsense.
One of the most overused expressions in martial arts and even some shooting disciplines is to “empty your cup”: Forget everything you’ve learned to this point and start anew. That’s good advice for certain types of training, but we see it as a hindrance in a course like this. Force-on-force should be strengthening your existing skillset and testing it under more realistic and stressful conditions, not starting from scratch.
For example, we had a scenario where an unruly customer stormed into a convenience store, acting belligerently to the clerk and then to us. We’ve experienced a few incidents like this in real life. On those occasions, and in this one, we covertly drew our pistol, held it discretely and were ready to take action if things escalated (Note: this is much easier to do with a tiny Seecamp 32 or an NAA Mini revolver than a UTM Beretta 92). During this training iteration, the incident escalated to where we had an attacker waving a fixed-blade knife within bad breath distance. Not wanting to take the chance on our carotid being severed, we shot him.
In the debriefing session we pointed out the danger posed by the assailant waving a fake Kabar within three feet of us. From previous CQC training with instructors such as Ernest Emerson, the late Richard Bustillo and Dan Inosanto, we knew what a determined attacker with a knife could do at that distance. Interestingly, even though the shooting was ruled justified, no other students articulated the threat the way we did.
My personal learning point was to be more mindful of creating additional distance when given the opportunity. However, given previous training, I’m confident that is how I would have acted in a real-life situation.
- Step outside the box
Okay, maybe don’t completely throw away the “empty cup.” There are times when you have to look at things with fresh eyes.
In another scenario, we happened upon a fight in progress. The victim was on the receiving end of a ground and pound by a bad guy. After trying to determine whether the victim was a bad guy and the aggressor was a good guy (for instance a police officer), the aggressor pulled a knife and prepared to stab the victim. Without seeing a badge or having the attacker respond to my commands to stop, I reacted.
Cops don’t stab unarmed people that they’ve been fighting, at least they shouldn’t. I drew and fired, probably at too close of a range.
What happened? Seeing a ground and pound triggered my past experience as a sportswriter and official in the fight game. I got as close as I could to determine what was happening. It was a stupid instinct. This wasn’t in a cage or a ring and I wasn’t a bouncer in a bar trying to break up a scuffle.
I found this to something I’m going to have to work on. While it may seem to contradict my earlier point, it actually doesn’t. We have to be mindful of what “hat” we’re wearing at any given time. If you’re former military, it’s not your job to “locate, close with and destroy the enemy” in every situation. There is a time to act, to fight, to flee, or to dial 911 and be a good witness. Your role (and the appropriate response) will change with every situation.
- Dress appropriately
This may seem like a no-brainer, but this hung us up more than once. Part of Simunitions training requires wearing something like a hoody for extra protection. The only hoody we owned was an old Everest. While it was light enough to endure the heat of the day, it was far too baggy and not at all what we’d normally wear.
It slowed us on the draw and got our pistol tangled up in it more than once. It also made re-holstering a bitch. Worst of all, it gave us zero protection when we were actually shot; though we might not have been shot at all had we been wearing something closer to normal, or been carrying our firearm as we usually do.
Another student, not used to carrying a firearm, wore a thin belt. More than once he made a draw that had him pointing a holstered firearm at his target. These kinds of things happen in the real world, and such occurrences during a training event should serve as a reminder to the rest of us.
The lesson here: don’t worry if your prized Kryptek jacket or beloved Dead Bird britches get blue and red marking dye on them. Train like you fight so that you’ll fight like your train, right down to your clothing type.
If you draw your gun in a real world situation and end up with it still in its holster, remember you can shoot through the damn thing (though that will probably not work with UTMs).
- Simunition rounds hurt like a bitch, but don’t play dead.
This is not paintball. While that round may only be travelling at less than 400 fps, our first reaction when we were shot was, “That son of a bitch shot me!”
Thankfully, Daniel Bales of LMS Defense gives an excellent briefing up front and encourages students to “fight through the pain.”
In the past, too many instructors compelled “shot” students to play dead. Maybe on a large scale law enforcement/first responder class this can make sense, in order to gauge evacuation of injured personnel and the handling of a mass-cas event. However, in a force-on-force lesson, when it’s your life on the line, think back to how some real life heroes or even bad guys have survived. Consider how they’ve fought through a gunfight, sometimes despite being riddled with bullets or even shot through the heart or head.
Here we learned to keep on fighting even when shot in the stomach. That won’t kill you out on the street, so it shouldn’t “kill” you in training.
- Don’t worry about hosing it up.
In our opinion in talking with hundreds of readers, students and shooters, the number one reason most people don’t train has to do with ego.
Nobody wants to look bad or face their potential short-comings. Training courses are not insanely expensive, but we consistently hear of courses that aren’t filled, and of people who carry a gun but won’t train. It’s been estimated that only 20% of people consistently train. Some folks reckon this number even lower.
You can mess up as much as you want in training, until eventually you get it right. That’s the beauty of training.
Most of us learn from our mistakes. That should be all of us. Maintain a mentality that allows you to recognize something you did wrong, own it, work to correct it, and vow not to do it again.
Final Thoughts: This wasn’t my first time partaking in this type of training and won’t be my last. If you’ve never taken a Force-On-Force class, you may want to look into what LMS Defense has to offer.
We find LMS Defense to offer some of the best instruction in the US. Even if force-on-force is not on your immediate radar, take a look at some of the other courses they offer to round out your skill set.